Western Athletic Conference
The Western Athletic Conference (WAC) is an American collegiate athletic conference formed on July 27, 1962, and affiliated with the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I. The WAC covers a broad expanse of the western United States, with member institutions located in Arizona, California, New Mexico, Utah, and Washington, along with the "non-western" states of Missouri and Illinois (traditionally associated with the Midwest), as well as Texas (traditionally associated with the Southwest).
|Western Athletic Conference|
|Established||July 27, 1962|
|Region||Western United States|
West South Central United States
Midwestern United States
|Commissioner||Jeff Hurd (since 2012)|
Due to most of the conference's football-playing members leaving the WAC for other affiliations, the conference discontinued football as a sponsored sport after the 2012–13 season and left the NCAA's Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly known as Division I-A). The WAC thus became the first Division I conference to drop football since the Big West in 2000. The WAC then added men's soccer and became one of the NCAA's eleven Division I non-football conferences.
The following institutions are the full members of the Western Athletic Conference.
|California Baptist University||Riverside, California||1950||Private||11,045||Lancers||2018||1|
|California State University, Bakersfield||Bakersfield, California||1965||Public||10,500||Roadrunners||2013||7|
|Chicago State University||Chicago, Illinois||1867||Public||2,964||Cougars||2013||0|
|Grand Canyon University||Phoenix, Arizona||1949||Private||20,000 (90,500 including online students)||Antelopes||2013||30|
|University of Missouri–Kansas City||Kansas City, Missouri||1933||Public||16,944||Roos||2013||17|
|New Mexico State University||Las Cruces, New Mexico||1888||Public||21,874||Aggies||2005||68|
|Seattle University||Seattle, Washington||1891||Private||7,755||Redhawks||2012||20|
|University of Texas Rio Grande Valley||Edinburg, Texas||1927||Public||27,809||Vaqueros||2013||5|
|Utah Valley University||Orem, Utah||1941||Public||41,728||Wolverines||2013||15|
- With the elimination of football as a WAC-sponsored sport, New Mexico State's football program is currently an FBS Independent member.
- The founding date for UTRGV listed in this table reflects that of Edinburg College, the institution that eventually became UTRGV.
- Chicago State's continued membership is problematic. Considering the school's current strained financial situation and the needs of the athletic program, in April 2016, the University Budget Committee recommended that the Athletic Department "... study the benefits of being Division I or another division."
- Championships title totals are through Spring 2016.
- California State University, Bakersfield will be leaving for the Big West Conference in 2020.
- The University of Missouri–Kansas City will be leaving to return to the Summit League in 2020.
|Dixie State University||St. George, Utah||1911||Public||9,673||Trailblazers||2020||RMAC (NCAA D-II)|
|Tarleton State University||Stephenville, Texas||1899||Public||13,115||Texans||2020||Lone Star (NCAA D-II)|
The following 10 schools field programs in the WAC for sports not sponsored by their primary conferences.
|Institution||Location||Founded||Type||Enrollment||Nickname||Primary Conference||WAC Sport(s)||Joined||WAC
|United States Air Force Academy
|1955||Federal||4,413||Falcons||Mountain West||men's soccer,
|California State University, Sacramento
|Houston Baptist University||Houston,
|University of Idaho||Moscow,
|1889||Public||12,312||Vandals||Big Sky||women's swimming||2014–15||17|
|University of the Incarnate Word||San Antonio,
|University of Nevada, Las Vegas
|1957||Public||29,069||Rebels||Mountain West||men's soccer,
|Northern Arizona University||Flagstaff,
|1899||Public||18,824||Lumberjacks||Big Sky||women's swimming||2004–05||6|
|University of Northern Colorado||Greeley,
|San Jose State University||San Jose,
|1857||Public||30,448||Spartans||Mountain West||men's soccer||2013–14||18|
|University of Wyoming||Laramie,
|1886||Public||12,496||Cowboys||Mountain West||men's swimming||2013–14||25|
- Four schools became affiliate members in men's soccer in July 2013; the WAC announced on January 9, 2013 that it would reinstate the sport, which it had sponsored from 1996 to 1999. Because the conference dropped football, it was necessary to add a new men's team sport to maintain its Division I status. It chose men's soccer because three of the confirmed members for 2013–14 (CSU Bakersfield, Grand Canyon, and Seattle) already sponsored the sport, and filled out its soccer ranks by attracting four schools from the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation. Three of these schools have past WAC connections—former full members Air Force, UNLV and San Jose State. After the WAC announced it would add men's soccer, the conference gained an eighth soccer school for the 2013 season when UMKC, which already sponsored the sport, joined. In addition, Utah Valley added the sport for 2014, UT-Pan American (now known as UT Rio Grande Valley) added it for 2015, and Chicago State is slated to add it for 2016.
- Four schools (three of which are former WAC full members: Air Force, UNLV and Wyoming; and North Dakota) became affiliate members in men's swimming and diving in July 2013; the WAC announced on May 16, 2013 that it would reinstate the sport, which it had sponsored from 1962 to 2000.
- Northern Colorado joined the WAC for baseball for the 2014 season (2013–14 academic year).
- Sacramento State was formerly an associate member of the WAC in baseball from 1992–93 to 1995–96.
- Championships title totals are through Fall 2014.
Former full members
The WAC has 27 former full members.
Former affiliate members
|Institution||Location||Founded||Type||Enrollment||Nickname||Primary Conference||WAC Sport(s)||Joined||Left|
|Boise State University||Boise,
|California Polytechnic State University
(Cal Poly San Luis Obispo)
|San Luis Obispo,
|California State University, Bakersfield
(Cal State Bakersfield)
|California State University, Fullerton
(Cal State Fullerton)
|California State University, Northridge
(Cal State Northridge)
|California State University, Sacramento
|Dallas Baptist University||Dallas,
(NCAA Division II)
|University of Denver||Denver,
|1873||Private||5,474||Panthers||Great Lakes Valley
(NCAA Division II)
|Grand Canyon University||Phoenix,
|University of Hawaii at Hilo
(NCAA Division II)
|University of North Dakota||Grand Forks,
|University of San Diego||San Diego,
|Southern Utah University||Cedar City,
- Neither the Big Sky Conference nor the MW sponsors women's gymnastics. Boise State and Southern Utah house that sport in the Mountain Rim Gymnastics Conference.
- Cal State Fullerton no longer sponsors women's gymnastics.
- The Big Sky Conference does not sponsor women's gymnastics. Sacramento State houses that sport in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation.
- The Dallas Baptist baseball team currently competes as a single-sport member of the Missouri Valley Conference.
- The Summit League does not sponsor women's gymnastics. Denver houses that sport in the Big 12 Conference.
- North Dakota no longer sponsors any of the sports it housed in the WAC.
- The WCC does not sponsor women's swimming and diving. San Diego houses that sport in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation.
Full members Full members (non-football) Other conference Other conference Associate Member
- Prior to the 1996–97 season, both Air Force and Hawaii had most to all of their women's sports competing in other conferences before joining the WAC full-time with their men's sports counterparts. At that time, Air Force was in the Colorado Athletic Conference, and Hawaii was in the Big West Conference.
The WAC formed out of a series of talks between Brigham Young University 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 BYU, Washington State, Oregon, Oregon State, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Arizona State, and Wyoming. 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. The Border and Skyline conferences, having each lost three of their stronger members, dissolved at the end of the 1961–62 season. The charter members of the WAC were Arizona, Arizona State, BYU, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. New Mexico State and Utah State applied for charter membership and were turned down; they would eventually become WAC members 43 years later.
Success and first expansion
The conference proved to be an almost perfect fit for the six schools from both a competitive and financial standpoint. Arizona and Arizona State, in particular, experienced success in baseball with Arizona garnering the 1963 College World Series (CWS) runner-up trophy and ASU winning the CWS in 1965, 1967, and 1969. Colorado State and Texas-El Paso (UTEP), at that time just renamed from Texas Western College, were accepted in September 1967 (joined in July 1968) to bring membership up to eight.
With massive growth in the state of Arizona, 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 State and, one year later, Hawaii. The WAC further expanded by adding Air Force in the summer of 1980. A college football national championship won by Brigham Young in 1984 added to the WAC's reputation as one of the best NCAA Division I conferences. This nine-team line-up of the WAC defined the conference for nearly 15 years.
Second wave of expansion
Fresno State 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, TCU, and SMU joined the league from the Southwest Conference, which had disbanded. Big West Conference members San Jose State and UNLV were also admitted, as well as Tulsa from the Missouri Valley Conference. Also, two WAC members for men's sports at the time, Air Force and Hawaiʻi, brought their women's sports into the WAC. With the expansion, the WAC was divided into two divisions, the Mountain and the Pacific.
|Quadrant 1||Quadrant 2||Quadrant 3||Quadrant 4|
|Fresno State||Air Force||Utah||TCU|
|San Diego State||Colorado State||New Mexico||SMU|
|San Jose 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.
Turbulence at the turn of the millennium
Increasingly, most of the older, pre-1996 members —particularly Air Force, BYU, Colorado State, Utah, and Wyoming— felt chagrin at this new arrangement. Additional concerns centered around finances, as the expanded league stretched approximately 3,900 miles (6,300 km) from Hawaiʻi to Oklahoma and covered nine states and four time zones. With such a far-flung league, travel costs became a concern. The presidents of Air Force, BYU, Colorado State, Utah, and Wyoming met in 1998 at Denver International Airport and agreed to split off to form a new league. The breakaway group invited old-line WAC schools New Mexico and San Diego State and newcomer UNLV to join them in the new Mountain West Conference, which began competition in 1999.
A USA Today article summed up the reasons behind the split. "With Hawaii and the Texas schools separated by about 3,900 miles and four time zones, travel costs were a tremendous burden for WAC teams. The costs, coupled with lagging revenue and a proposed realignment that would have separated rivals such as Colorado State and Air Force, created unrest among the eight defecting schools."
WAC in the 2000s
In 2000, the University of Nevada, Reno (Nevada) of the Big West joined as part of its plan to upgrade its athletic program.
The Big West announced that it would drop football after the 2000 season, but four of its football-playing members (Boise State, Idaho, New Mexico State, and Utah State) were unwilling to drop football. Boise State was invited to join the WAC and promptly departed the Big West, while New Mexico State and Idaho joined the Sun Belt Conference (NMSU as a full member, Idaho as a "football only" member) and Utah State operated as an independent D-IA program. At the same time, Louisiana Tech (LA Tech) ended its independent D-IA status and also accepted an invitation to join the WAC with Boise State.
In 2005, Conference USA sought new members to replenish its ranks after losing members to the Big East, which had lost members to the ACC. Four WAC schools, former SWC schools Rice and SMU, as well as Tulsa and UTEP, joined Conference USA. In response, the WAC added Idaho, New Mexico State, and Utah State – all former Big West schools which left the conference in 2000 along with Boise State when that conference dropped football. The three new schools were all land grant universities, bringing the conference total to five (Nevada and Hawaiʻi).
Membership changes and the elimination of football
The decade of the 2010s began with a series of conference realignment moves that would have trickle-down effects throughout Division I football, and profoundly change the membership of the WAC. Boise State decided to move to the Mountain West Conference (MW) for the 2011–12 season, and to replace departing BYU, the MW also recruited WAC members Fresno State and Nevada for 2012–13. WAC commissioner Karl Benson courted several schools to replace those leaving, including the University of Montana, which declined, as well as the University of Denver, University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), and Texas State University-San Marcos, which all accepted effective 2012–13.
But the resulting eastward shift of the conference's geographic center led Hawaiʻi to reduce travel expenses by becoming a football-only member of the MW and joining the California-based Big West Conference for all other sports. Further invitations were then issued by the WAC to Seattle University and the University of Texas at Arlington. These changes meant that the conference would have 10 members for 2012–13, seven of which sponsored football, and Benson announced that the WAC planned to add two additional football-playing members to begin competition in 2013. A further boost came when Boise State decided to join the Big East in football, and return to the WAC in most other sports, as of the 2013–14 academic year. So by the end of 2011, the WAC seemed to have weathered the latest round of conference changes, and once again reinvented itself for the future.
But from this seemingly strong position, early 2012 brought forth a series of moves that shook the conference to its very core, beginning with Utah State and San Jose State accepting offers to join the MW. Four similar announcements followed with UTSA and Louisiana Tech jumping to Conference USA, plus Texas State and UT Arlington heading to the Sun Belt Conference, all as of 2013–14. Boise State also canceled plans to rejoin the WAC, instead opting to place its non-football sports in the Big West Conference, before eventually deciding to simply remain in the MW. These changes left the WAC's viability as a Division I football conference in grave doubt. The two remaining football-playing members, New Mexico State and Idaho, began making plans to compete in future seasons as FBS Independents; they ultimately spent only the 2013 season as independents, rejoining their one-time football home of the Sun Belt as football-only members in 2014.
In order to rebuild, as well as forestall further defections, the conference was forced to add two schools—Utah Valley University and CSU Bakersfield—which were invited in October 2012 to join the WAC in 2013–14, but this did not prevent two more members from leaving. Denver decided to take most of its athletic teams to The Summit League as of the 2013–14 season, shortly after Idaho opted to return all of its non-football sports to the Big Sky Conference in 2014–15. The conference responded over the next two months by adding Grand Canyon University, Chicago State University, and the University of Texas-Pan American. Then, in February 2013, the WAC announced the University of Missouri–Kansas City would join in the summer of 2013 as well. These changes would put the conference's membership at eight members by 2014 with only one, New Mexico State, having been in the WAC just three years earlier. Due to losing the majority of its football-playing members, the WAC would stop sponsoring the sport after the 2012–13 season, thereby becoming a non-football conference.
In 2013, the University of Texas System announced that Texas–Pan American would merge with the University of Texas at Brownsville; the new institution, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV), began operation for the 2015–16 school year. UTRGV inherited UTPA's athletic program and WAC membership.
In November 2017, Cal State Bakersfield announced they would accept an invitation to the Big West and join their new conference in 2020.
In January 2019, Dixie State University announced they would move their athletics to Division I and join the WAC in 2020.
In June 2019, University of Missouri–Kansas City, which soon announced the rebranding of its athletic program as the Kansas City Roos, would leave the WAC to join the Summit League in 2020.
In September 2019, Tarleton State University of Division II announced that it will be moving up to Division I and will join the WAC in 2020.
|Swimming & Diving|
|Track and field (indoor)|
|Track and field (outdoor)|
- Men's soccer was a newly sponsored sport for 2013–14; UTRGV added it for 2015, and Chicago State is also to add it.
Men's sponsored sports by school
Departing members in red.
- CSUB discontinued men's golf in June, 2017.
- Chicago State was expected to add men's soccer by 2014. The school budgeted the sport for the 2016–17 school year. However, the ongoing State of Illinois budgetary crisis and the school's own critical financial problems have set this back once more. With the school's current financial situation and the needs of the athletic program, in April 2016, the University Budget Committee recommended that the Athletic Department "... study the benefits of being Division I or another division."
- Affiliates Northern Colorado and Sacramento State.
- Affiliates Air Force, Houston Baptist, Incarnate Word, San Jose State, and UNLV.
- Affiliates Air Force, UNLV, and Wyoming.
Men's varsity sports not sponsored by the Western Athletic Conference which are played by WAC schools
Departing member in red; future members in gray.
|Cal State Bakersfield||No||No||No||Pac-12|
|Dixie State||FCS independent||No||No||No|
|New Mexico State||FBS independent||No||No||No|
|Tarleton State||FCS independent||No||No||No|
|Utah Valley||No||No||No||Big 12|
Women's sponsored sports by school
Departing members in red.
- Affiliates Northern Arizona and Northern Colorado.
Women's varsity sports not sponsored by the Western Athletic Conference which are played by WAC schools
Departing member in red.
|School||Beach Volleyball||Equestrian||Rowing||Water Polo|
|Cal State Bakersfield||Independent||No||No||No|
|New Mexico State||No||Independent||No||No|
The WAC sponsored football from its founding in 1962 through the 2012 season. However, the defection of all but two football-playing schools to other conferences caused the conference to drop sponsorship after fifty-one years.
|New Mexico State||1905||1329–1018–2||.566||18||10–20||Pan American Center||Chris Jans|
|Grand Canyon||2013||103-58||.639||0||0–0||GCU Arena||Dan Majerle|
|Utah Valley||2004||234–194||.547||0||0–0||UCCU Center||Mark Madsen|
|UTRGV||1968||599-804||.427||0||0–0||UTRGV Fieldhouse||Lew Hill|
Men's basketball rivalries involving WAC teams include:
|Teams||Meetings||Record||Series Leader||Current Streak|
|New Mexico State||New Mexico||208||95–113||New Mexico||New Mexico State Won 2|
|New Mexico State||UTEP||200||102–98||New Mexico State||New Mexico State Won 6|
|New Mexico State||1973||437–406||.518||4||0–4||Pan American Center||Mark Trakh|
|Seattle||1978||–||.||1||0–1||Connolly Center||Joan Bonvicini|
Women's basketball rivalries involving WAC teams include:
|Teams||Meetings||Record||Series Leader||Current Streak|
The WAC has claimed seven NCAA baseball national championships. The most recent WAC national champion is the 2008 Fresno State Bulldogs baseball team.
- For the sports in which the WAC recognizes both regular-season and tournament champions:
- (RS) indicates regular-season champion.
- (T) indicates tournament champion.
- For other sports, only a tournament champion is recognized.
- Champions from the previous school year are in italics.
|Season||Sport||Men's champion||Women's champion|
|Fall 2019||Cross country||Utah Valley||California Baptist|
|Soccer||Seattle (RS & T)||Seattle (RS & T)|
|Volleyball||—||New Mexico State (RS & T)|
|Winter 2019–20||Indoor Track & Field||Grand Canyon||Grand Canyon|
|Swimming & Diving||Grand Canyon||Northern Arizona|
|Basketball||New Mexico State (RS & T)||New Mexico State (RS & T)|
|Spring 2020||Golf||Kansas City||New Mexico State|
|Tennis||Grand Canyon (RS & T)||Grand Canyon (RS)|
New Mexico State (T)
|Softball||—||Seattle (RS & T)|
|Outdoor Track & Field||Utah Valley||Grand Canyon|
|Baseball||California Baptist, New Mexico State, UTRGV (RS)|
Sacramento State (T)
The following teams have won NCAA national championships while being a member of the WAC:
- Arizona – baseball (1976)
- Arizona State – baseball (1965, 1967, 1969, 1977)
- BYU – men's track & field (shared the national title in 1970)
- BYU – men's golf (1981)
- BYU – women's cross country (1997)
- Fresno State – softball (1998)
- Fresno State – baseball (2008)
- Rice – baseball (2003)
- UTEP – NCAA Division I Men's Cross Country (1969, 1975, 1976, 1978, 1979, 1981)
- UTEP – NCAA Division I Men's Indoor Track and Field (1974,1975,1976,1978,1980,1981,1982)
- UTEP – NCAA Division I Men's Outdoor Track and Field (1975, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982)
- UNLV – men's golf (1998)
The WAC has also produced one AP national champion in football:
Departing members Cal State Bakersfield and Kansas City in pink; future members Dixie State and Tarleton State in gray.
|School||Soccer stadium||Capacity||Basketball arena||Capacity||Softball park||Capacity||Baseball park||Capacity|
|Cal State Bakersfield||CSUB Main Soccer Field||2,500||Icardo Center /
|3,800 / 10,000||Roadrunner Softball Complex||500||Hardt Field*||900|
|California Baptist||CBU Soccer Field||N/A||CBU Events Center||5,050||John C. Funk Stadium||500||James W. Totman Stadium||800|
|Chicago State||Kroc Stadium||500||Jones Convocation Center||7,000||
|Dixie State||Trailblazer Stadium||10,000||Burns Arena||4,779||Karl Brooks Field||N/A||Bruce Hurst Field||2,500|
|Grand Canyon||GCU Stadium||2,800 seats
|GCU Arena||7,000||GCU Softball Stadium||300||Brazell Field at GCU Ballpark||1,500|
|Kansas City||Durwood Soccer Stadium||850||Municipal Auditorium||9,987||Missouri 3&2 Complex||350||
|New Mexico State||Aggie Soccer Field||1,253||Pan American Center||12,482||NMSU Softball Complex||1,050||Presley Askew Field||1,000|
|Seattle||Championship Field||650||KeyArena||17,072||Logan Field at Seattle University Park||250||Bannerwood Park||700|
|Wisdom Gym||2,400||Tarleton Softball Complex||500||Cecil Ballow Baseball Complex||750|
|UTRGV||UTRGV Soccer and Track & Field Complex||1,555||UTRGV Fieldhouse||2,500||
|UTRGV Baseball Stadium||4,000|
|Utah Valley||Clyde Field||1,000||UCCU Center||8,500||Wolverine Field||500||UCCU Ballpark||5,000|
- Note: KeyArena is configured for 8,901 capacity for Seattle games. Seattle U also plays multiple home games at the Connolly Center (capacity 999) during the season as well.
|School||Soccer stadium||Capacity||Baseball park||Capacity|
|Air Force||USAFA Soccer Stadium||1,000||Soccer-only member|
|Houston Baptist||Sorrels Field||500||Soccer-only member|
|Incarnate Word||Gayle and Tom Benson Stadium||6,000||Soccer-only member|
|UNLV||Peter Johann Memorial Field||2,500||Soccer-only member|
|Northern Colorado||Baseball-only member||Jackson Field||1,500|
|Sacramento State||Baseball-only member||John Smith Field*||1,200|
|San Jose State||Spartan Soccer Field||500||Soccer-only member|
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.
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 various WAC member institutions Athletics Directors select the male award winner, while the WAC member institutions Senior Women's Administrators choose the female honoree.
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 $3,000 postgraduate scholarship.
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