What once was great can be great again

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Photo courtesy UVU Review

There was a time when the Western Athletic Conference was full of big-name schools. Its charter schools included Arizona, Arizona State, BYU, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. In 1980 the Arizona schools took off for what is now known as the Pac-12. They were replaced by San Diego State and Hawaii. Air Force also joined in 1980.

But since those charter schools and other various institutions have left the conference, it just hasn’t quite been the same. Sure, there are the unbelievable crowds for the sporting events at Grand Canyon. Sometimes, there are big crowds at the other facilities for sporting events.

However, they are few and far between. Take UVU for instance. The biggest crowds for a men’s basketball game at the UCCU Center come against New Mexico State and Grand Canyon or an in-state opponent. It is understandable given the magnitude those games hold. What about when Seattle, UMKC or even Bakersfield comes to town? Why not have a big crowd at those games as well?

Just for clarification, this isn’t just isolated to UVU. This is for all fans of all schools in the WAC. There needs to be more support for your teams. They may not win all the time but they work hard and lay it out night in and night out.

Yes, winning would do wonders for making the WAC relevant again. The way the college sports landscape is right now, not having football hurts. Yes, some will disagree with that but just look at the numbers of those who watched the Notre Dame-Texas game on Sunday compared to say, then 18th-ranked UVU men’s soccer taking on Bradley that same day.

Many people believe Grand Canyon has set the standard for student sections in the WAC. People will justify that by saying that they have on-campus housing and the school is built like a fortress to keep people in. That is all true. But, remember back in January when Grand Canyon hosted New Mexico State in men’s basketball. The student section, known as the GCU Havocs, were one of the top trends in the greater Phoenix area that night.

It may not be the WAC of old where 50,000 screaming fans combine on a Saturday afternoon to watch a college football game, but it is the WAC of a new era and one that can be great. We have seen upsets abound each year. Look at the women’s soccer tournament in 2015. Look at what the UVU men’s basketball team did in the 2013-14 season, its first in WAC play. What about the CSU Bakersfield men’s basketball team run to the NCAA tournament in 2016? Even the UVU softball team, who has struggled the past few seasons, earned its first-ever NCAA tournament bid when it surprised everyone to win the 2014 WAC tournament championship.

There are exciting things happening right now in the conference. The UVU and Seattle University men’s soccer teams are both nationally ranked. The UVU women’s soccer team is ranked 8th in the NSCAA West Region.

The athletes do their best to put a good product out on the field and the court. It is now on the fans to come out and support those athletes, to create rivalries, to stand by your teams through thick and thin. The athletes make the conference good. The fans are the ones that will make it great.