UT Arlington watching conference shakeups

Posted Tuesday, May. 01, 2012  comments  Print Reprints
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The new CUSA?

The new Conference USA, according to reports:

Air Force

Alabama Birmingham

Colorado State

East Carolina

Florida International

Fresno State

Hawaii (football only)

Louisiana Tech

Marshall

Nevada Reno

Nevada Las Vegas

New Mexico

North Texas

Rice

Southern Mississippi

Tulane

Tulsa

UT San Antonio

UT El Paso

The new Sun Belt?

What the reconfigured Sun Belt might look like:

Arkansas State

Arkansas-Little Rock

Denver

Florida Atlantic

Georgia State

Louisiana-Lafayette

Louisiana-Monroe

Middle Tennessee

South Alabama

Texas State

Troy

UTA

Western Kentucky

Have more to add? News tip? Tell us

Reports that UT Arlington would soon leave the Western Athletic Conference to become a member of the Sun Belt are premature, a university official said Tuesday afternoon.

The reports come amid news that a dramatic shakeup among mid-major conferences is in the works and to the apparent detriment of the WAC.

Conference USA and the Mountain West plan to merge and form a conference that would ultimately include 18 to 24 teams, including North Texas and UT San Antonio. UTSA, like UTA, is only months from beginning membership in the WAC.

Any change in conference alignment regarding UTA would require the approval of the UT Board of Regents, which on Wednesday is taking up UTSA's move.

"Our first thought has always been to support the conference that we are in to the fullest extent," said Gregg Elkin, senior associate athletic director at UTA.

"By that same token, if things change then we have to be aware of what possibilities might be out there for us."

That the 50-year-old WAC is changing -- and not for the better -- there appears to be no doubt about that.

In addition to UTSA, Louisiana Tech also is reportedly preparing to join the new CUSA. According to published reports, Texas State will also leave for the Sun Belt. Officials with the Sun Belt did not immediately return messages.

In addition, WAC members San Jose State and Utah State are poised to leave the conference, according to reports.

If all that is indeed true, the WAC -- once a conference with 16 teams -- would be left with two football teams in 2013 -- New Mexico State and Idaho -- well below the mandated eight required to be an FBS conference. UTA doesn't play football.

"The Western Athletic Conference Board of Directors is well aware of the changing landscape in Division I athletics and has been in discussion about it for the last several weeks," WAC officials said in a statement.

"Further, it continues to evaluate the impact upon the WAC and is closely engaged in evaluating its membership options. It will not speculate relative to those options, but it has confidence that the WAC will maintain" its status as a "preeminent Division I conference."

UTA President James Spaniolo had no comment at this time, a university spokeswoman said.

The crisis within the WAC is certainly topic No. 1 among athletic directors at the annual conference meeting this week in Phoenix.

If UTA does move, it would be the school's third conference in three years. The school competed in the Southland Conference since 1964 until July, when officials announced that it would move to the WAC, where it would compete in men's and women's basketball, baseball and the other Olympic sports.

In the event a move is necessary, university officials are confident that the school's new state-of-the-art arena and its presence in the Dallas-Fort Worth media market will prove attractive to would-be suitors.

Speculation that North Texas was planning for a move was further heightened last week when its board of regents authorized President Lane Rawlins to explore options for conference realignment.

According to an agenda outlining Wednesday's board of regents meeting, MWC teams joining CUSA would be Nevada-Las Vegas, New Mexico, Colorado State, Air Force and Wyoming. Three schools planning to join the MWC this year -- Fresno State, Nevada-Reno and Hawaii -- are also joining the new CUSA, which would also include Louisiana Tech from the WAC and UNT Sun Belt-peer Florida International.

CUSA expansion has been rumored since the defections of SMU, Houston, Central Florida and Memphis to the Big East last year.

A spokesman in UNT's athletic department said the school had no immediate plans for an announcement and would have no comment "until we know something official and at this point we don't."

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