SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The addition of Seattle University in 2012 will still leave the Western Athletic Conference with only seven football-playing members – a situation Commissioner Karl Benson said he hopes will be remedied within a year.”Seven is workable but certainly not ideal,” Benson said during a conference call Tuesday following a board of directors meeting in Park City, Utah.While stability of the overall conference is important, he said the No. 1 priority will be to get to eight or nine or more football-playing schools.The league announced the addition of Seattle following the Park City meeting. Benson cited Seattle’s academics, athletics, facilities and location in a top-15 media market.Seattle becomes a member on July 1, 2012, meaning the WAC will have nine full-time members for the 2012-13 season. Idaho, Louisiana Tech, New Mexico State, San Jose State, Texas State, Texas-San Antonio and Utah State all compete in football while Seattle University and the University of Denver do not.The WAC loses BCS-busting Boise State this year, and will lose key members Fresno State, Nevada and Hawaii in 2012. The WAC tried to add Montana last year but the Grizzlies chose to stay in the lower-tier Football Championship Subdivision and the Big Sky Conference it has dominated at times over the years.Benson acknowledges the WAC is geographically challenged. He said his ideal scenario would be to create a 12-team league split into East and West divisions. He said nine of those schools would compete in football.Benson said he has been in contact with a dozen FCS schools that compete in football over the past six to eight months but the economy has not allowed them to make the jump to the higher division.”We will continue to work with them and hopefully within the next year the timing will be better,” Benson said.He said it will be important for the five current football-playing schools that will remain with the WAC for the long haul to show success on the football field this year by contending for a conference championship and qualifying for bowl games.There isn’t any reason why those five, Idaho, Louisiana Tech, New Mexico State, San Jose State, Utah State, “or Texas State or Texas-San Antonio can’t be the next Boise State,” Benson said.As for basketball, he said Seattle or Denver could be the next Gonzaga. He said they have similar university profiles and are in major metropolitan areas.Seattle University, now an independent, was a Division I team from 1950-1980 and its men’s basketball team advanced to the NCAA title game in 1958 led by Hall of Famer Elgin Baylor. The school returned to the NCAA’s top division in 2009 and currently plays its men’s basketball games at KeyArena, the home of the Seattle SuperSonics until the franchise moved.The Redhawks sponsor 17 sports that will compete in the WAC, including baseball, softball, men’s and women’s golf and women’s volleyball.
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