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UH join the Mountain West,
"What lies ahead for
University of Hawaii athletics?"
The question everyone keeps asking is, "Should U.H. leave the WAC (Western Athletic Conference)? They should, but at the moment not many viable options are available.
Everyone keeps saying how U.H. should join the Pac-10 and leave the WAC for a better conference. Of course joining a conference the caliber of the Pac-10 would be ideal, but how realistic is that? At the moment, the Pac-10 is not even considering expansion beyond its present ten members. When and if the Pac-10 decides to expand, it will most likely expand to twelve members, thus enabling it to split the conference into two divisions and create a championship game which will generate substantial income for its conference members.
The last time talk of Pac-10 expansion floated around years ago, Hawaii was not even one of the schools mentioned in that discussion. National powerhouses such as Colorado and Texas from the Big 12 conference were some of the names being tossed around back then. Other than men's and women's volleyball, Hawaii is not considered a year-in and year-out national contender in any other sports, especially in the big three: football, basketball, and baseball. With the reluctance of the U.H. administration to negotiate a lucrative extension with current football coach, June Jones, one has to question how financially committed U.H. is to creating a top notch athletic program.
With the exception of newly appointed president Evan Dobelle, people in the administration have continually said how U.H. does not have the money to pay our coaches salaries in line with what their mainland counterparts are receiving. If that's the case, then talk of U.H. wanting to join the Pac-10 is just that: talk.
Here are some more realistic options for the near future should Hawaii decide to leave the WAC.
Become an independent in football only, and join the Big West for all other sports. As an independent in football, Hawaii would face unique scheduling challenges associated with not having a set amount of conference games each year. Other than scheduling difficulties, going the independent route is by far the best option at this point.
As for the other sports, the Big West offers comparable and sometimes better competition than the present WAC members. For women's volleyball, returning to the Big West would represent the renewal of rivalries with powerhouse programs such as Long Beach State, Pacific, and UC Santa Barbara. In baseball, the Big West is home to perennial Top 25 teams such as Cal-State Fullerton and Long Beach State. Although the WAC is probably stronger in basketball, the Big West overall is a respectable conference.
Whatever may happen, we, U.H. fans, can only hope that University President
Evan Dobelle and the new, yet to be determined, Athletic Director guide
Hawaii athletics in the right direction.