College football • Conference wouldn't be the same with paradise lost.
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Western Athletic Conference commissioner Karl Benson is doing everything he can to keep Hawaii in the WAC.
Benson, on Monday afternoon, confirmed that he has extended an offer to Hawaii, urging the school to remain in the WAC as a football-only member, while parking its non-revenue sports in the Big West Conference. Benson is scheduled to meet with Hawaii athletic director Jim Donovan in Las Vegas later this week. He says he will reiterate the offer to Donovan since he hasn't heard from Hawaii since making the original offer.
Several reports last week indicate Hawaii is in an advanced stage of negotiations with the Mountain West, although a formal invitation has yet to be extended, according to Benson.
"Our goal is to make Hawaii an offer beneficial for them to stay in the conference," Benson said. "The WAC is prepared to move forward and do whatever it takes to continue our operation."
That includes monitoring several different scenarios, as conference expansion appears to be heating up again after several months of relative silence.
Benson said that he's had preliminary talks with North Texas in an attempt to gauge its interest in joining the WAC. He said that he would welcome TCU's other sports should the Horned Frogs move to the Big East as a football-only member. Benson also asked Cal-Davis to rethink its move to the Big Sky, but was rebuffed.
It would be another huge blow to Benson's conference if Hawaii leaves, a move that would leave the conference with just five continuing members, as Boise State is leaving for the MWC in 2011, and Fresno State and Nevada will do the same a year later. The WAC will add Texas State, Denver and Texas San-Antonio in time for the 2012 season, though Denver does not have a football program. But if the WAC has just seven football-playing members in July 2012, it would lose its status as a Football Bowl Subdivision conference. Because of this, Benson says he's aggressively pursuing other football-playing schools, and hopes North Texas shows interest in joining the league. Benson, however, says that in light of proposed NCAA legislation that would eliminate the continuance-of-membership clause, he is confident that his conference isn't in danger of losing its BCS status. Benson also doesn't expect the WAC to lose its automatic bid to NCAA events, which includes March Madness.