WAC commissioner: 'We need assurances Fresno State and Nevada will meet their obligations'

By Brian Murphy
bmurphy@idahostatesman.com

The WAC filed a complaint against Fresno State, Nevada and the Mountain West Conference in Jefferson County, Colorado on Sept. 9 to seek a ruling on the schools' departure date from the league, commissioner Karl Benson said Tuesday.

The purpose of the suit is to keep Fresno State and Nevada in the WAC through the end of the 2011-12 athletic calendar. Fresno State and Nevada have indicated their desire to leave the league for the Mountain West at the end of the 2010-11 calendar.

"We need assurances Fresno State and Nevada will meet their obligations to participate in the WAC in 2011-12," Benson said during a teleconference with media Tuesday.

WAC bylaws state that schools have to give notification before July 1 in order to leave the league by the next June. Boise State met this deadline, which is why the school is not subject to the lawsuit.

Fresno State and Nevada informed the WAC of its desire to leave on Aug. 18. Benson said he had no communication with Fresno State or Nevada about the WAC's insistence that the schools remain in the league.

"WAC legal counsel recommended" the complaint, Benson said.

The WAC code book gives the termination date as Sept. 1. Benson said the change was made to the bylaws — "the governing document," according to Benson — in 2006. The change was not reflected in the code book.

Fresno State and Nevada have 30 days to answer the complaint, Benson said. He expects a decision within 30 days of the schools answering the complaint. Fresno State and Nevada have contacted WAC legal counsel, Benson said.

Benson said the WAC would be damaged in several ways if the schools left. Among the damages: TV contract with ESPN, WAC basketball tournament, BCS implications and football scheduling.

"There's a myriad of reasons why Fresno State and Nevada need to fulfill their obligation. There's a reason why there are notification dates to allow a conference adequate time and reasonable time," Benson said.

Benson said the Mountain West was named in the complaint to stop the conference from scheduling conference games that include Fresno State and Nevada. He said there was no evidence that the Mountain West had begun doing so.

Benson said it would not be the first time that schools departing the WAC have played two "lame duck" seasons in the league. He noted that TCU, SMU, Rice and Tulsa have done so.

Boise State is not a party to the lawsuit, though money from the school's dues could be used to fund the lawsuit.

Benson said he still expects both Fresno State and Nevada to comply with the $5 million buyout penalty. He said that is a separate matter from the departure date.

"They are not linked to each other. They are sequenced and right now we are addressing the issue that is the most urgent. That is the departure date," Benson said. "At some point in time, if and when the other becomes an issue, we'll address that as well."

WAC membership changes

Benson said the league's membership committee has met twice via conference call in the last week and he expects the group to meet in-person on Sept. 27 in Dallas.

"We're still in the early stages of evaluating structure, evaluating models," Benson said.

Benson said he is confident that the WAC would have eight teams minimum in 2012. He said the league could have 10 or 12 teams by then and include a combination of football-playing and non-football playing schools.

Could the in-person meeting in Dallas be an indication of how the membership committee is leaning (i.e., Texas State, UT-San Antonio)?

WAC release

From the league:

WAC Seeks Judicial Determination Regarding Departure Date

DENVER - Western Athletic Conference commissioner Karl Benson announced today that in order to protect the WAC, WAC member institutions and its student-athletes, the WAC is seeking a judicial determination as to the date that Fresno State and the University of Nevada Reno may terminate their membership with the WAC.

The WAC has maintained -- consistent with the bylaws -- that these institutions may not depart the WAC until June 30, 2012. However, through both direct communication with individuals at both schools and media reports, Fresno State and University of Nevada Reno have indicated an intention to terminate their membership with the WAC prior to the date allowed by the bylaws.

Due to the irreparable injury such early withdrawal would cause to the WAC, a judicial determination is required in the near future. Additionally, as communications occurred regarding the Mountain West Conference's desire to schedule conference play with Fresno State and University of Nevada Reno prior to June 30, 2012, the WAC is also seeking injunctive relief from such action.

"The WAC is simply seeking to protect its interests and insure that all member institutions are protected from a potential and threatened violation of the bylaws." said Benson. "Such inappropriate action would make it impossible for member institutions to schedule athletic events and thereby would adversely affect the WAC, the WAC member institutions and the student-athletes."

Fresno State, Nevada reaction

From Fresno State: "We've been advised by the WAC that it has initiated legal action. That is unfortunate. We believe that all the issues can be resolved through discussion rather than through costly legal proceedings."

From Nevada: "I am disappointed. It is unfortunate that this matter has moved to litigation before any discussions between the parties were undertaken. We have been very public about our desire to resolve these matters directly with the Western Athletic Conference and to do so as expeditiously as possible. At this point, our university legal counsel is in contact with the WAC's attorney."

A word on preseason polls

This is a very strong piece from CBSSports.com's Gregg Doyel on why preseason polls need to go — and why they haven't.

You can follow Murph's Turf on Twitter.

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Benson

Clinging to Fresno State and Nevada is not going to do anything for the long term health of the WAC. Benson should be worrying more about that future and less about "sticking it" to Fresno and Reno.

I'm surprised that the WAC hasn't fired Benson yet

They need as much time as they can get.

I disagree - schools like Hawaii and Utah State need time to figure out what they are going to do. Making FSU and UNR stick around buys another year. I'm sure Benson hopes they'll use that time to rebuild the WAC. We'll see how that works out...

If the courts rule that the bylaws take precedent over the code book (insane that there are conflicing docs) then Nevada and Fresno should man up and meet their commitments. And then they should burn in he l l for their treachery. :)

BSU

Do you think BSU would not have bolted to if they had not already been invited? It took us years to get an invite to the MWC. You need to grab an opportunity to move up the ladder when it is offered to you. Fresno and Nevada both have also made it clear for years they wanted to get in the MWC.

Sure.

I'm not saying they should stay forever. I'm saying that there are reasons (beyond spite) that the WAC might want to hold them to their commitment through 2011-12.

Benson is only looking out for his interests

and the schools still in the WAC. that's his job and obligation.

it's no different than Craig "the hair" thompson pre-emptively inviting nevada and fresno.

it's business.

it is what it is.

maybe so but he's going about it in a malicious manner

If he was looking out for the best interest of the schools currently in his conference then that would include Fresno, Nevada AND Boise State, as all three are still WAC members and it appears that Fresno and Nevada will still be WAC members until 2012.

You're right. It's business and it is what it is, albeit it's bad business

BCS?

"Benson said the WAC would be damaged in several ways if the schools left. Among the damages: TV contract with ESPN, WAC basketball tournament, BCS implications and football scheduling."

Well, they are leaving ... sooner or later. It's just a matter of 2011 or 2012.

I don't know what Benson is thinking as far as "BCS implications". With BSU, Fresno, and Nevada leaving, there pretty much is no chance the WAC, even if it survives, will ever again be in any BCS discussion, let alone place a team in a BCS game.

BCS ...

... The BCS is not just about making it to a BCS game. Each of the non-AQs get money from the BCS. Some of that revenue is distributed based on standing among the five non-AQ leagues. The WAC has been the No. 2 team in the standings (behind MWC) and thus collects the second-most money from that distribution. Losing Fresno State and Nevada a year early will hurt in those calculations.

-- murph

Good explanation

Thanks, Murph. Are you going to be on IST with Caves and Prater to explain all of this?

MURPH

Doesn't the BCS require conferences to maintain 8 football teams in order to be considered for BCS money? That could be an issue if the new schools are 1aa. They can't be counted until 2012.

BCS ...

... Benson said the WAC is named in all the BCS contracts until 2014, then the league will remain a part of the BCS no matter how many teams it has until the current contract expires.

-- murph

Still Expects Payment...??

Benson should be arrested for extortion...

Benson

The WAC is headed down the toilet and that's precisely where Benson should be too!

I said this A Couple of times.

Benson is playing cards. He will let them go early for the $$. The 5 mill won't hold up...BYU did not execute membership...So his plan is to ink new schools, extort cash from Reno/Fresno to let them go early. Reno, Fresno, and The MWC will pony up..

Benson has an obligation to act

in the best interest of the conference members and from my perspective that's what he's doing. I'm curious to know whether there are any university systems with rules prohibiting them from scheduling schools who have unresolved legal issues such as Fresno and Nevada. I have a hunch some MWC members may think twice about scheduling Fresno and Reno until this is resolved to avoid any exposure to financial damages.

Worst case Scenario...

Reno and Fresno stay an extra year and the WAC doesn't get any money. Big deal. Won't save Benson or the WAC

as a Reno Gazette reader said...

"Get out the popcorn!"

Greg Doyel Missed the Point

The one thing that Doyel didn't put in his hilarious article (and I'm not being snarky, it really was funny - and I don't disagree with most of it) is that BSU and BSU's mid-major cohorts have been saying all along that the BCS system is broken. And, all of a sudden, now that BSU is using the BCS rules against the BCS, the big boys have finally got the religion!

The system didn't suddenly break - nothing has changed. The system is just as broken as it's always been! What scares the bejesus out of the BCS boys is that Boise State understands their rules better than they do.

Maybe if BSU ends up in the title game the BCS will finally realize that there really is a good reason for a playoff.

the WAC is like that wife you divorce who just doesn't

get it. Its over, making them stay in your house one more year will only create many bigger problems. Can you imagine Fresno and Nevada when BSU is gone, getting the WAC trophy handed to them by Karl. Actually the way it is set up they may both win it. It would be a surreal image, sometime in December of 2011 karl is walking out there to hand them a trophy knowing full well they are gone and they destroyed his league.... Oh well, it will be good practice this year with BSU. Imagine karl lobbying Nevada's case for a BCS game next year... ha ha this is great!

HaHa P2

toss in that Benson would love to re-marry his ex(s).....

I know a few ex's (wives and husbands)

who's mission was just to make life miserable for the maximum amount of time possible and they were motivated by entertainment only.

You nailed that one.

Took many many years to get thru it.

On topic, I see Benson sitting looking for 10M when he should be inking new teams for next year. Tie it up in court and waste time and money on lawyers or do his job and sign up who he can as quick as he can.

Good call...

Funny that I've used a similar analogy on how the MWC handled BYU... Girlfirend wants to leave you for another guy, so you shoot the other guy. Girlfiend then leaves your for an even uglier guy...

Boise AG

Who is your Team/School??

USU

.

Benson and the WAC look

Benson and the WAC look stupid(er) in all this. It's petty and vindictive, no discussion as adults, just another lawsuit keeping the ambulance chasers in business and the broke WAC spending more money to look stupid. Nevada and Fresno got out ahead of Benson and BYU's treachery so in the end they win no matter how much they have to spend.

I disagree...

I've read numerous comments from Reno Gazette Journal and the Fresno Bee and many of the followers of those two football programs appear embarrassed by the actions of their respective schools and have made comments that their schools should pay up and move on.

Hmmm sportsisfun

I just went 8 Fresno/WAC articles in the Bee, I found absolutely NO comment in any of them that back up your assertion. Could you please post the articles from where these "numerous" comments from "many" of the followers that they are "embarrassed" by the University(s) move to MWC.

Thanks in advance........

He'll be talkin about ...

article bloggers comments..you watch...

Read the Gazette everyday

Read the Gazette everyday and haven't seen any remarks about embarrassed fans. Everyone in Reno is happy about the move!!!

Why, Mr. Benson, you need a fairy godmother...or a GUITAR!

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"Say a prayer for the pretender..."-Jackson Browne

Benson, sweetheart,

its over.... we get the kids (Nevada and Fresno) Our new wife will take very good care of them. You can come visit for OOC games. Go find yourself some nice young things half your age like Montana or some other DII school.
Dont make this any harder than it has to be. Dont grovel and cry it doesn't become you. Its over....the faster you can accept that and move on the better.
PS when you hand us the trophy this year please dont grab our legs and cry on our shoes.

The headline is such a passive-aggressive thing it's ill.

You areb't going to send them to bed without supper, are you Mr, Benson?

NEXT! (Conference)

In out next episode, we hear quiet weeping.

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"Say a prayer for the pretender..."-Jackson Browne

Benson would have been a genius

had his plan worked out just a frog's hair different. Instead he is an intolerable idiot. I guess this is what makes college football great. :)