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The Western Athletic Conference (WAC, IPA: [ˈwæk]) was formed on July 27, 1962, making it the sixth oldest of the 11 college athletic conferences currently participating in the NCAA's Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS; formerly Division I-A). The WAC covers a broad expanse of the Western United States, with member institutions located in Californiamarker, Hawaiimarker, Idahomarker, Louisianamarker, Nevadamarker, New Mexicomarker, and Utahmarker. It is generally considered a "mid-major" conference; while it is not a member of the Bowl Championship Series selection system, it frequently produces teams that compete at a championship level.



The WAC formed out of a series of talks between Brigham Young Universitymarker Athletic Director Eddie Kimball and other university administrators from 1958 to 1961 to form a new athletic conference that would better fit the needs and situations of certain universities which were at the time members of the Border, Skyline and Pacific Coast Conferences. Potential member universities who were represented at the meetings included Brigham Young, Washington Statemarker, Oregonmarker, Oregon Statemarker, Utahmarker, New Mexicomarker, Arizonamarker, Arizona Statemarker, and Wyomingmarker. While the three Washington and Oregon schools elected to stay in a revamped Pac-8 Conference that replaced the scandal-plagued PCC, the remaining six schools formed the WAC, forcing the disbandment of the Border and Skyline conferences. New Mexico Statemarker and Utah State applied for charter membership and were turned down; they would eventually become WAC members 43 years later.

Charter members

Success and first expansion

The conference proved to be an almost perfect fit for the six schools from both a competitive and financial standpoint. Arizonamarker and Arizona Statemarker, in particular, experienced success in baseball with Arizonamarker garnering the 1963 College World Series runner-up trophy and ASUmarker winning the CWS in 1965, 1967, and 1969. UTEPmarker, recently renamed from Texas Western College, and Colorado Statemarker joined in 1967 to bring membership up to eight.

With massive growth in the state of Arizonamarker, the balance of WAC play in the 1970s became increasingly skewed in favor of the Arizona schools, who won or tied for all but two WAC football titles from 1969 onward. In the summer of 1978, the two schools left the WAC for the Pac-8, which became the Pac-10, and were replaced in the WAC by San Diego Statemarker and, one year later, Hawaiimarker. The WAC further expanded by adding the U.S. Air Force Academy in the summer of 1980. A college football national championship won by Brigham Youngmarker in 1984 added to the WAC's reputation as the best of the so-called mid-major conferences. This nine-team line-up of the WAC defined the conference for nearly 15 years.

Second wave of expansion and turbulence

Fresno Statemarker expanded its athletic program in the early 1990s and was granted membership in 1992 as the nationwide trend against major college programs independent of conferences accelerated. The WAC merged with the High Country Athletic Conference, a parallel organization to the WAC for women's athletics, in 1990 to unify both men's and women's athletics under one administrative structure.

In 1996, the WAC expanded again, adding six schools to its ranks for a total of sixteen. Rice, TCUmarker, and SMUmarker joined the league from the Southwest Conference, which had disbanded. Big West Conference members San José Statemarker and UNLVmarker were also admitted, as well as Tulsamarker from the Missouri Valley Conference. With the expansion, the WAC was divided into two divisions. (Only one of these schools (San Jose State) is still in the WAC; the rest have either left for Conference USA or the Mountain West Conference.)

To help in organizing schedules and travel for the farflung league, the members were divided into four quadrants of four teams each, as follows:
Quadrant 1 Quadrant 2 Quadrant 3 Quadrant 4
Hawai i UNLV BYU Tulsa
Fresno State Air Force Utah TCU
San Diego State Colorado State New Mexico SMU
San José State Wyoming UTEP Rice

Quadrant one was always part of the Pacific Division, and quadrant four was always part of the Mountain Division. Quadrant two was part of the Pacific Division for 1996 and 1997 before switching to the Mountain Division in 1998, while the reverse was true for quadrant three. The scheduled fourth year of the alignment was abandoned after eight schools left to form the Mountain West Conference.

The division champions in football met from 1996 to 1998 in a championship game at Sam Boyd Stadiummarker (also known as the Silver Bowl) in Henderson, Nevadamarker. ABC televised all three games.

Increasingly, this arrangement was not satisfactory to most of the older, pre-1990 members. Five members in particular (Air Force, BYU, Colorado State, Utah and Wyoming) felt that WAC expansion had compromised the athletic and academic excellence of the membership[11695]. Additional concerns centered around finances, as the new league stretched from Hawai i to Oklahoma and travel costs became a concern. In 1999, those five schools, along with old line WAC schools New Mexico and San Diego State, as well as newcomer UNLV, would split off and form the Mountain West Conference, depriving the WAC of most of its competitive strength and almost all of its history (in addition to its 4 remaining charter members). Only UTEP and Hawai i would remain from the WAC's "golden age".

Today's WAC

Since 1999, WAC membership has been in a state of flux. Nevadamarker of the Big West joined in its plan to upgrade its athletic program in 2000. TCU left for Conference USA in 2001 (then rejoined eight former WAC opponents as the ninth member of the Mountain West in 2005), while Boise Statemarker of the Big West and independent Louisiana Tech joined the WAC in 2001.

Another large change of membership came in 2005. The two former SWC schools that were still in the conference (Rice, SMU) joined Tulsa and longtime member UTEP in leaving for Conference USA. Joining the conference were three more universities (all land-grant schools) from the Big WestIdahomarker, Utah State, and New Mexico Statemarker (ex-Big West). When the Big West announced that it would drop football after the 2000 season, there were four members that wanted to continue their football programs. Boise State was invited to join the WAC and promptly departed, but UI, NMSU, and USU were left without a football conference in 2001. NMSU joined the Sun Belt Conference as a full-time member, but UI and USU remained in the Big West. Idaho joined the distant Sun Belt as a "football only" member in 2001 while Utah State operated as a football independent for two seasons. USU found scheduling extremely difficult, and it joined Idaho as a "football only" member of the Sun Belt in 2003. [11696]

Membership timeline

DateFormat = yyyyImageSize = width:750 height:auto barincrement:20Period = from:1962 till:2010TimeAxis = orientation:horizontalPlotArea = right:30 left:0 bottom:50 top:5

Colors = id:barcolor value:rgb(0.99,0.7,0.7)
        id:line     value:black
        id:bg       value:white

 width:15 textcolor:black shift:(5,-5) anchor:from fontsize:s

 bar:1  color:claret from:1962 till:1978 text:University of Arizonamarker (1962-1978)
 bar:2  color:claret from:1962 till:1978 text:Arizona State Universitymarker (1962-1978)
 bar:3  color:claret from:1962 till:1999 text:Brigham Young Universitymarker (1962-1999)
 bar:4  color:claret from:1962 till:1999 text:University of New Mexicomarker (1962-1999)
 bar:5  color:claret from:1962 till:1999 text:University of Utahmarker (1962-1999)
 bar:6  color:claret from:1962 till:1999 text:University of Wyomingmarker (1962-1999)
 bar:7  color:claret from:1967 till:1999 text:Colorado State Universitymarker (1967-1999)
 bar:8  color:claret from:1967 till:2005 text:University of Texas at El Pasomarker (1967-2005)
 bar:9  color:claret from:1978 till:1999 text:San Diego State Universitymarker (1978-1999)
 bar:10 color:claret from:1979 till:end text:University of Hawaii at Manoamarker (1979-present)
 bar:11 color:claret from:1980 till:1999 text:United States Air Force Academy (1980-1999)
 bar:12 color:claret from:1992 till:end text:Fresno State Universitymarker (1992-present)
 bar:13 color:claret from:1996 till:1999 text:University of Nevada, Las Vegasmarker (1996-1999)
 bar:14 color:claret from:1996 till:2001 text:Texas Christian Universitymarker (1996-2001)
 bar:15 color:claret from:1996 till:2005 text:Rice University (1996-2005)
 bar:16 color:claret from:1996 till:2005 text:Southern Methodist Universitymarker (1996-2005)
 bar:17 color:claret from:1996 till:2005 text:University of Tulsamarker (1996-2005)
 bar:18 color:claret from:1996 till:end text:San José State Universitymarker (1996-present)
 bar:19 color:claret from:2000 shift:(-175,-3) till:end text:University of Nevada, Renomarker (2000-present)
 bar:20 color:claret from:2001 shift:(-190,-3) till:end text:Boise State Universitymarker (2001-present)
 bar:21 color:claret from:2001 shift:(-190,-3) till:end text:Louisiana Tech University (2001-present)
 bar:22 color:claret from:2005 shift:(-190,-3) till:end text:University of Idahomarker (2005-present)
 bar:23 color:claret from:2005 shift:(-190,-3) till:end text:New Mexico State Universitymarker (2005-present)
 bar:24 color:claret from:2005 shift:(-190,-3) till:end text:Utah State University (2005-present)

ScaleMajor = gridcolor:line unit:year increment:2 start:1962

TextData =
  pos:(175,30) # tabs:(0-center)
  text:"WAC Membership History"

Current members (and year joined)

Institution Nickname Location Founded Affiliation Enrollment Joined Endowment
Boise State Universitymarker Broncos Boise, Idahomarker 1932 Public 19,667 2001 $77 million
Fresno State Universitymarker Bulldogs Fresno, Californiamarker 1911 Public (California State University system) 22,613 1992 $112 million
University of Hawaii at Manoamarker Warriors Honolulumarker, Hawaiimarker 1907 Public (University of Hawaii System) 20,135 1979 $3 billion (UH System)
University of Idahomarker Vandals Moscow, Idahomarker 1889 Public 11,957 2005 $176 million
Louisiana Tech University Bulldogs/Lady Techsters Ruston, Louisianamarker 1894 Public (University of Louisiana System) 11,289 2001 $65 million
University of Nevada, Renomarker Wolf Pack Reno, Nevadamarker 1874 Public (Nevada System of Higher Education) 16,867 2000 $240 million
New Mexico State Universitymarker Aggies Las Cruces, New Mexicomarker 1888 Public 17,198 2005 $173 million
San José State Universitymarker Spartans San José, Californiamarker 1857 Public (California State University system) 32,746 1996 $50 million
Utah State University Aggies Logan, Utahmarker 1888 Public (Utah System of Higher Education) 23,925 2005 $145 million
Locations of current Western Athletic Conference full member institutions.

Associate members


The WAC crowns team and individual champions in 19 sports – 8 men’s and 11 women’s.

Men's sports
  • Baseball
  • Basketball
  • Cross country
  • Football
  • Golf
  • Tennis
  • Indoor track and field
  • Outdoor track and field

Women's sports
  • Basketball
  • Cross country
  • Golf
  • Gymnastics
  • Soccer
  • Softball
  • Swimming and diving
  • Tennis
  • Indoor track and field
  • Outdoor track and field
  • Volleyball

Former members




  • TCUmarker (1996-2001)


Of the former members:
  • Two (Arizona and Arizona State) are currently members of the Pac-10.
  • Four (Rice, SMU, Tulsa, UTEP) are in Conference USA.
  • The remaining nine make up the current membership of the Mountain West Conference (TCU was in Conference USA from July 2001 through June 2005 before joining the Mountain West).

Conference facilities

School Football stadium Capacity Basketball arena Capacity Baseball stadium Capacity
Full Members
Boise State Bronco Stadiummarker 33,500 Taco Bell Arenamarker 12,380 N/A
Fresno State Bulldog Stadiummarker 41,031 Save Mart Centermarker 15,544 Beiden Fieldmarker 5,422
Hawai i Aloha Stadiummarker 50,000 Stan Sheriff Centermarker 10,300 Les Murakami Stadiummarker 4,312
Idaho Kibbie Domemarker 16,000 Cowan Spectrummarker 7,000 N/A
Louisiana Tech Joe Aillet Stadiummarker 30,600 Thomas Assembly Centermarker 8,000 J.C.marker Love Fieldmarker 2,000
Nevada Mackay Stadiummarker 29,993 Lawlor Events Centermarker 11,784 William Peccole Parkmarker 3,000
New Mexico State Aggie Memorial Stadiummarker 30,343 Pan American Centermarker 13,071 Presley Askew Field 750
San José State Spartan Stadiummarker 30,578 The Event Center Arena 5,000 San Jose Municipal Stadiummarker 5,200
Utah State Romney Stadiummarker 25,500 Dee Glen Smith Spectrum 10,270 LaRee and LeGrand Johnson Field 500
Associate Members
Sacramento State Hornet Field 1,200

  • Idaho uses the same structure for both its home football and basketball games, although it uses a different name for the venue's basketball configuration. Also, Idaho has occasionally used Martin Stadiummarker at Washington State Universitymarker, only 8 miles (13 km) west, for a home football game. In 1999, while a member of the Big West Conference, Idaho played all of their home games at Martin Stadium and did not play a single game in the state of Idaho. This was due to the requirements by the Big West, and due to remodeling of the Kibbie Dome per the NCAA for Idaho to be a Division I-A, now FBS, school.




Commissioner's Cup: The WAC awards its Commissioner's Cup to the school that performs the best in each of the conference's 19 men's and women's championships.

Stan Bates Award: The award is named in honor of former WAC Commissioner Stan Bates and honors the WAC's top male and female scholar-athletes, recognizing the recipients’ athletic and academic accomplishments. In addition, the awards carry a $2,000 postgraduate scholarship.

Joe Kearney Award: Named in honor of former WAC commissioner Dr. Joseph Kearney, the awards are given annually to the top male and female WAC athlete. The WAC Athletics Directors select the male award winner, while the WAC Senior Woman Administrators choose the female honoree.

National championships

The following teams have won NCAA national championships while being a member of the WAC:

The WAC has also produced one AP national champion in football:

Football bowl games

The WAC regularly sends teams to three different bowl games: the Hawai i Bowl, the Humanitarian Bowl, and the New Mexico Bowl. The WAC will also send a team to the Poinsettia Bowl if the Pac-10 conference cannot provide a team. In 2010 and 2013 the WAC will send a team to the Emerald Bowl. The conference even has the opportunity to send a team to a BCS game, and did so in 2006 with Boise State and 2007 with Hawai i.

Bowl Championship Series

The WAC champion will receive an automatic berth in one of the five BCS bowl games if:
  1. ranked in the top 12 of the BCS Standings, or
  2. ranked in the top 16 of the BCS Standings and its ranking is higher than that of a champion of a conference that has an annual automatic berth in one of the BCS bowls, AND
  3. is the highest-ranked team from one of the six "non-BCS" or "non-AQ" (automatic qualifying) conferences.

The 2006 Boise State and 2007 Hawai i teams qualified under the first criterion above. The 2008 Boise State team was ranked in the top 12 of the final BCS standings, but did not qualify for an automatic BCS bid because Utah, the Mountain West Conference champion, was #6. The 2008 Broncos were passed over for a BCS berth despite being unbeaten in the regular season.

Hawai i Bowl

The bowl will select a WAC team and will match it against a Conference USA opponent. Hawai i automatically qualifies for this bowl if it is bowl eligible and doesn't qualify for the BCS.

Humanitarian Bowl

The bowl will select a WAC team and will match it against a Mountain West Conference opponent.

New Mexico Bowl

The bowl will select a WAC team and will match it against a Mountain West Conference opponent.

Poinsettia Bowl

The bowl will select a WAC team, provided that the Pac-10 conference cannot supply an eligible team. The opponent will be a team from the Mountain West Conference.

Emerald Bowl

The bowl will select a WAC team in 2010 and 2013 to play the Pac-10's 6th place team provided they are eligible.

Conference championships





The Humanitarian Bowl is extended to the WAC team that finishes second in the conference, third if there is a team selected to the BCS.


External links

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