Sunday, July 1, 2012
SAN ANTONIO — UTSA officially became a member of the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) on Sunday. The Roadrunners joined Denver, Seattle, Texas State and UT Arlington in joining the league as full members and that pushed the conference’s membership to 10 schools (CSU Bakersfield and Dallas Baptist also joined as single-sport affiliate members in baseball).
The Roadrunners are coming off a successful 21-year run as a member of the Southland Conference. The department won a total of 56 Southland Team Championships since joining the league in 1991-92 and 36 of those came in the last dozen years. UTSA also won two Commissioner’s Cups (2007-08 & 2010-11) and it boasted a conference-leading 30 Student-Athletes of the Year since the circuit started handing out the award in 2002-03.
In its 50 years of existence, the WAC has evolved and it features some of the nation’s best intercollegiate competition, but the one thing that remains unchanged is the persistent nature of the member institutions to advance their programs to contend at the top levels of the NCAA.
The nation’s sixth-oldest conference (founded July 27, 1962) provides its student-athletes the chance to travel to scenic destinations and gain exposure in some of the nation’s most diverse markets. WAC student-athletes also have worked to achieve the highest levels of success with the academic support of their respective universities.
The league crowns team and individual champions in 19 sports — eight men’s and 11 women’s. There are men’s championships in baseball, basketball, cross country, football, golf, tennis and indoor and outdoor track & field, while women compete in basketball, cross country, golf, gymnastics, soccer, softball, swimming & diving, tennis, indoor and outdoor track & field and volleyball.
The WAC has experienced tremendous success over the years.
Since 2000, a total of 43 football teams have been invited to bowl games, including more than half of its teams in 2008 with a record-tying five, and the conference has sent teams to three Bowl Championship Series bowl games since 2006. Meanwhile, the league has sent at least two men’s basketball teams to the NCAA Tournament in 24 of the past 29 seasons and two of its baseball programs have captured National Championships. In women’s basketball, Louisiana Tech has played in all but three NCAA Tournaments during its storied history.
In 2001, the WAC partnered with ESPN for coverage of football and basketball, which gives the conference national exposure from one of the most respected broadcast entities in the country. The league also officially added WAC.TV in 2006 to give fans online streaming access to many of its postseason championships, including baseball, basketball, soccer, softball, swimming & diving and volleyball.
Current WAC members now include Denver, Idaho, Louisiana Tech, New Mexico State, San Jose State, Seattle, Texas State, Utah State, UTSA and UT Arlington, while BYU (softball), CSU Bakersfield (baseball), Dallas Baptist (baseball), North Dakota (swimming & diving), Northern Arizona (swimming & diving), Sacramento State (baseball/gymnastics) and Southern Utah (gymnastics) are affiliate schools.
The WAC has had just six commissioners in its history.
Paul Brechler was named the first leader of the conference and he held the position from 1962-68. Brechler has been followed by Wiles Hallock (1968-71), Stan Bates (1971-80), Dr. Joe Kearney (1980-94), Karl Benson (1994-2012) and current interim commissioner Jeff Hurd (2012-present).
Meanwhile, the league office has been located in the Denver metropolitan area since the conference’s inception with the exception of a two-year stay in Phoenix from 1964-66.
Former WAC institutions include charter members Arizona, Arizona State, BYU, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming, as well as Air Force, Boise State, Colorado State, Fresno State, Hawai`i, Nevada, Rice, San Diego State, SMU, TCU, Tulsa, UNLV and UTEP.
UTSA is one of the largest of nine academic universities and sixth health institutions in the University of Texas System. As a multicultural institution of access and excellence, UTSA aims to be a national research university that provides access to educational excellence and prepares citizen leaders for the global environment.
UTSA serves nearly 31,000 students in more than 135 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degree programs in the Colleges of Architecture, Business, Education & Human Development, Engineering, Honors, Liberal & Fine Arts, Public Policy, Sciences and Graduate School. Founded in 1969, it is an intellectual and creative resource center and a socioeconomic development catalyst for Texas and beyond.