They won five conference championships this past academic year. Their facilities are expanding. They boast an All-American in basketball and wrestling, respectively.
Simply put, UVU Athletics is a whale in the pond that is the Great West.
Part I[audio: http://wearesuns.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/PART1Jacobsen-Interview.mp3]
Part II[audio: http://wearesuns.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/PART2Jacobsen-Interview.mp3]
No longer content beating up on the Dakotas (among others) every year, UVU is eager to spread its athletic wings by hooking up with the Western Athletic Conference. It’s a move UVU Director of Athletics Michael Jacobsen calls the “natural thing.”
Whether the WAC feels the same, however, won’t be known until June 14.
“For us to be able to get into the WAC would be huge,” Jacobsen said. “Huge for our community, for our university and for our student athletes. We’d bring quite a bit to the conference. It wouldn’t just be all what they can do for us, it’d be what we can do for them, also.
But it’s that last caveat that has WAC member schools, such as Utah State, hesitating to throw support UVU’s way. While sports such as baseball, basketball and wrestling have flourished, the fact remains football is a school’s biggest selling point.
Unfortunately for Utah Valley, it’s something they’re not in position to buy.
“The thing I do know for sure is if Utah State would support us in getting into the WAC, we would get in,” Jacobsen said. “They’re very powerful.” — Michael Jacobsen, UVU Director of Athletics
“In our economy, in the climate and all that’s going on today, to start a program from scratch would take a huge commitment from our community and our students,” Jacobsen said.
Throw university officials into that group as well. Jacobsen has pushed for football his entire 27-year tenure at UVU, only to see “the powers that be” keep it from happening. He cited the considerable start-up cost, along with the delayed profits, among the biggest obstacles – which in turn have become UVU’s biggest obstacle in joining a well-known conference.
“There’s no question [our lack of football is] a hindrance for us getting into a conference,” Jacobsen said.
It’s a hindrance that could prove deadly. The Great West Conference is losing North Dakota and South Dakota after next season, leaving the conference in a tenuous position beyond 2013.
The conditions leave UVU hoping the WAC will open its arms. Jacobsen rebuffed rumors that Utah State is actively against Utah Valley’s inclusion, but admits their support would dispel the need for hope altogether.
“The thing I do know for sure is if Utah State would support us in getting into the WAC, we would get in,” Jacobsen said. “They’re very powerful.”
A position UVU hopes to attain for itself, pending the WAC’s June 14 decision.
The Salt Lake Tribune recently reported UVU president Matthew Holland has been invited for the two-day conference session, throwing a supportive light on the crucial proceedings.