RENO, Nev. (AP) - Nevada and Fresno State have agreed to play
one more season in the Western Athletic Conference before
transferring to the Mountain West Conference in 2012, but will pay
significantly less to make the move than the WAC had demanded, the
league said Thursday.
The two schools wanted to make the change next year, but WAC
officials filed a lawsuit that said they failed to provide proper
notice to leave the league and would owe the WAC a $5 million
WAC Commissioner Karl Benson announced Thursday they reached an
agreement that allows the schools to make the jump effective June
30, 2012, for a buyout of $900,000 each. That means both of their
football and basketball seasons will begin in the Mountain West
with the 2012 season.
Benson said the fee was considerably less than what the WAC felt
was warranted but the league decided to settle the dispute now
rather than risk being tied up in court for several more months.
"This allows us to proceed with scheduling for 2012," he told
reporters during a teleconference call Thursday morning.
Benson described the negotiations only as "businesslike" and
declined to characterize the deal in terms of winners or losers.
"I don't think I'm prepared to say if it was a good deal or a
bad deal," he said. "It's time for all parties to move on."
Nevada and Fresno State announced in July that they had accepted
invitations to follow fellow WAC member Boise State to the Mountain
West. Boise starts play there next season and both Nevada and
Fresno State had indicated they wanted to do the same.
Benson earlier lashed out at Nevada and Fresno State for being
"selfish" in deciding to abandon the league to seek their fortune
elsewhere. He characterized the two schools as partners in crime
who - practically overnight - caused the WAC to go "from having a
secure and prosperous future to once again not knowing what the
future will hold."
Benson said on Thursday that the premature loss of the two could
have left the WAC with only six schools, jeopardizing bowl ties and
automatic bids to NCAA tournaments.
"To have allowed Fresno state or Nevada to leave early would
have put the WAC at a tremendous disadvantage," Benson said.
"There was substantial financial risk."
Benson said the three driving financial factors were the
league's contract with ESPN for football games, potential BCS money
and NCAA basketball tournament revenue. Especially in the case of
ESPN, he said they believed the WAC would bring in more money with
the two schools still in the league in 2011.
"It was critical to the WAC that we continue to be an
eight-team league in 2011-12," he told reporters. "It was
something we just could not afford to move off of. It was
Benson said he expected decisions to be made over the next month
regarding the addition of up to five new schools to the league in
the coming years. He said the WAC is determined to field at least
eight teams for football each season.
Besides the $900,000, Nevada and Fresno State will forfeit
whatever would have been their share of league money for the
2011-12 season, Benson said. Boise State is forfeiting an estimated
$750,000 at the close of the 2010-11 season before it leaves, but
will keep its share of whatever BCS bowl money it should generate
this year, he said.
Nevada athletic director Cary Groth said the Wolf Pack preferred
to make the leap to the Mountain West in the fall of 2011 because
lame duck conference members do no one any good.
Benson said Thursday he didn't think that would be a problem.
"This is a lame duck year right now and I certainly haven't
seen any issues thus far," he said. "It's part of the process of
changing conferences. It can't happen immediately, overnight. There
is a reason we establish notification dates."