It was scarcely a month ago that Utah Valley University thought it was on the verge of becoming a basketball-only member of the Western Athletic Conference. In fact, UVU officials were confident they would receive an invitation during the WAC's upcoming meetings in Park City.
But that confidence has since turned into disappointment and some hard feelings between UVU and Utah State University.
Utah Valley officials believe their USU counterparts have been less than supportive in bringing the Wolverines into the WAC, largely because they don't want to compete with UVU for basketball recruits.
"Other people in the WAC tell me that if Utah State would support us … we would get in," Utah Valley athletic director Michael Jacobsen told The Salt Lake Tribune on Wednesday. "We don't think that we're getting that support."
Jacobsen says he has had recent talks with USU athletic director Scott Barnes, in which Barnes told him the WAC would rather focus on its football members and hold off on further expansion when league presidents meet June 13 and 14 in Park City.
"If that's what they plan to do, then we're fine with that," Jacobsen said, adding that he has also heard from WAC sources that the conference plans to add Seattle University as a basketball-only member during the next few weeks. The WAC previously invited Denver University as a basketball-only school.
WAC commissioner Karl Benson visited Utah Valley's campus last month, a meeting Jacobsen called "very encouraging."
Said Benson: "Utah Valley is one of the schools that are being considered for expansion. They, along with several other schools, will be evaluated by the board when they meet in June."
Following that meeting, Jacobsen said, UVU president Matthew Holland was invited to the WAC's Park City meetings only to be uninvited a few weeks later.
Utah State President Stan Albrecht denies that his school is somehow discouraging UVU's WAC candidacy.
"That's a bunch of B.S.," Albrecht said. "There's nothing to block. We haven't even met yet. People have been getting way ahead of themselves on the issue, and it's unfortunate. Until we meet in June, there's really nothing to talk about. The notion that we wouldn't want to compete for recruits is completely untrue. Give me a break. We've competed for decades against Utah and BYU, and we've done quite well."
Jacobsen says there are currently no plans for Utah Valley to add football to its list of sports. He still holds out hope that the Wolverines will receive an invitation to a WAC that's rebuilding after losing four key members in the past two years.
"It would be a great opportunity and a great move for us," Jacobsen said. "It would be great for the state to have two WAC-playing schools. It would have great economic impact in the state, and we could form a great rivalry with Utah State."