Park City • Seattle University has officially accepted an invitation to join the Western Athletic Conference, WAC Commissioner Karl Benson announced on Tuesday afternoon.
And in the process, Utah Valley University received one of its biggest disappointments.
The two schools, along with Cal State-Bakersfield, were seriously considered for inclusion into a conference that badly needed to expand, for the sake of numbers alone. With Seattle and UVU both making presentations to the WAC Board of Presidents on Monday afternoon, Seattle was the school that received the call it wanted to hear.
Seattle, which will join the conference on July 1, 2012, becomes the ninth member of the league, which will lose Fresno State, Nevada and Hawaii after the upcoming season. Seattle will be a non-football school along with Denver, and the WAC will go with just seven football-playing schools in the 2012-2013 season.
"We were very impressed with Seattle's commitment to academics and athletics," Benson said. "They fit the WAC footprint."
In choosing Seattle, the WAC gets a toehold in a top-15 media market. The hope is that the school can provide a financial windfall for the WAC by commanding part of a rich television market.
UVU, conversely, found itself hurt by a saturated market that's dominated by Utah, BYU and Utah State. Utah Valley argued that its growth over the last 10 years should've gained it entrance into the WAC, but the Board of Presidents thought differently.
"We certainly applaud and respect their growth," Benson said. "But at this time, Seattle had more of the characteristics that we were looking for."
Benson said that this wasn't an either/or scenario. Had the board approved, both schools could've been added and the conference could've gone to 10 teams.
Even so, adding just Seattle does nothing to solve the WAC's immediate football issues. The conference, with eight teams, is affiliated with three bowls for the upcoming season. But in the 2012-2013 season, with only seven football playing programs, the league will be reduced to one bowl, the Humanitarian Bowl, where the champion will automatically go.
"In one way, it's a positive thing because we would have a definite bowl for the champion," Benson said. "It's the first time in many years that we can align a bowl with a champion."
Benson said the conference will seek to expand with a football-playing school in the coming year. He said he fully expects to be up to eight members by the 2013-2014 season, and that he doesn't rule out a 10- to 12-team league in the future.
"We're interested in creating a geographical balance," Benson said. "We won't rule out any schools that are interested in the WAC and we won't rule out any potential models. We will continue to examine and evaluate schools and add schools in the coming year."
Seattle is formally introduced as the newest WAC member.
UVU doesn't receive an invite.
The WAC will field nine teams in 2012-2013.