Berry Tramel

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OU football: Utah State could use a ballgame

by Berry Tramel Published: August 28, 2010

Few college football administrators will look more forward to the opening of the season than Utah State president Stan Albrecht. His Aggies play OU in Norman next Saturday, and Albrecht could use a ballgame to get everyone’s focus back on the field.

You think the drama in the Big 12 was spicy this off-season? It had nothing on the Western Athletic and Mountain West conferences. After the Mountain West lost Utah to the Pac-10, the Mountain West pilfered a team (Boise State) from the WAC. The WAC turned around and courted the Mountain West’s marquee school (BYU) and thought it had a deal. Then the Mountain West countered by grabbing the WAC’s next two best football schools after Boise State (Nevada and Fresno State).

When it was all over, the WAC was left largely void and Albrecht, who was at the center of many of the dramas, including enticing BYU and trying to hold the WAC together, was considered a goat. Some have even called for his job, but the Utah State president apparently has done an excellent job in most other areas, so it would be a hard sell to fire him because conference realignment broke the other way.

But Utah State is in a mess. The Aggies have told their fans that the Mountain West initially invited Utah State to join. If so, Utah State’s first mistake was not accepting.

The Mountain West is a clear upgrade from the WAC, and when a school with such limited football prowess gets an invite from a league that might soon be a BCS automatic-qualifying league, it should jump at the chance.

Instead, Utah State hung with its WAC members and tried to put together a commitment from the remaining nine schools, complete with a $5 million buyout agreement. Fresno State signed it, but Nevada didn’t, so who knows how that will turn out.

When the WAC lost those two schools, BYU gave pause to its plan to go independent in football and join the WAC in other sports.

What a bad league the WAC is. Utah State, New Mexico State, Idaho, San Jose State, Hawaii, Louisiana Tech. That’s what’s left of the WAC. Six football schools, four time zones and not one decent team. That’s a league worse than the Sun Belt.

Who knows what the future holds? Some say BYU might still leave the Mountain West and go independent in football. Some say the WAC might expand. Seems like the most likely scenario could be dissolution. Louisiana Tech belongs in Conference USA. Hawaii might not be financially solvent. This league could die right before our very eyes.

With Utah State right in the middle of it. But first, the Aggies get to play in Owen Field. It will be sweet relief.

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by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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