Texas-Arlington becomes 10th member of WAC (with audio)

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP)—The Western Athletic Conference is back in business in the Dallas-Fort Worth area—only not in football. Having lost TCU and SMU years ago, the WAC returned Thursday by adding one of the lesser-known institutions in the region, Texas-Arlington. WAC officials approached UTA only two weeks ago, and everything clicked right away. The final step came Thursday with the board of regents for the University of Texas system voting to accept an invitation. The WAC is going through a major renovation. With Fresno State, Hawaii and Nevada leaving after the upcoming season, membership was down to only five schools before a recruiting effort that has landed Seattle, Denver, Texas State and Texas-San Antonio, and now UTA for membership starting in the 2012-13 school year. Only seven of those 10 members play football, with UTA among those that don’t. WAC Commissioner Karl Benson said he’ll be looking for two more football playing schools in hopes of having a 12-team league with nine football programs. He’s also hoping that UTA considers reviving football; the Mavericks ceased their program in 1985. “I think today demonstrates that we definitely have a strong foundation,” Benson said. “The WAC looks much more attractive today than it did three months ago or six months ago. That’s what we’re going to play on as we go out and try to secure two football-playing schools.” For UTA, jumping from the Southland Conference to the WAC is part of a decade-long campaign to raise the school’s stature in every way, UTA President James D. Spaniolo said. Resuming the football program would seem to fit that, too, especially with UTA being the second-largest school in the UT system and the campus being only a few miles from the $1.3 billion Cowboys Stadium. “We have not closed the door to football, but it’s not on our immediate horizon,” Spaniolo said. “We will look at that some time down the road, but we’ve got some other immediate priorities that need attention.” The top of that list is opening a $78 million on-campus College Park Center that will be the home to the basketball and volleyball programs. It’s scheduled to open in December. “We know President Spaniolo will take a good, hard look at (adding football) and the WAC is hopeful the answer will come back yes,” Benson said. Benson also noted the travel benefits of the new 10-team configuration, which features five schools in the West and five in the Central time zone. UTA is leaving the Southland Conference, a league it helped start. UTSA and Texas State also are going from the Southland to the WAC.

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