By Brian Murphy
On the day that the rebuilding Western Athletic Conference added Seattle University as its ninth member beginning in 2012, Big Sky commissioner Doug Fullerton disputed the popular opinion that members of his league are not ready to move to the WAC.
Fullerton said the WAC has had contact with at least six Big Sky schools during its recent expansion effort — Montana, Montana State, Cal Poly, UC Davis, Sacramento State and Portland State. Idaho State is also a member of the Big Sky.
"It's not that we're not ready to move. We've got schools that are ready to move if they get a good proposal. They could move and make it very easily. Not being ready to move is not correct," Fullerton said.
"We're in a better place than the WAC is."
The WAC will have seven football-playing schools, starting in July 2012. The league is still seeking at least one additional football-playing member, commissioner Karl Benson said.
The Big Sky is a member of the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), formerly known as Division I-AA. The WAC is one of 11 Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) conferences.
Boise State and Nevada were once members of the Big Sky before making the jump to the FBS. The schools have enjoyed football success at the FBS level, making them outliers among schools that have made the jump.
Fullerton said just five of the 19 schools to make the move from FCS to FBS since the 1970s have winning records.
Boise State and Nevada, current members of the WAC, are making the move to the Mountain West Conference.
Fullerton said some Big Sky schools could compete in the WAC immediately, but that doesn't make it a good move.
"It's not that they're not ready. That's not the truth. You don't have to get married the first time you get proposed to. You can wait for that offer that's right," Fullerton said.
Fullerton pointed out that the WAC will have just one bowl tie-in for the 2012 season, though the league could add games in a backup situation.
The Big Sky has undergone expansion of its own — adding Cal Poly, UC Davis, Southern Utah and North Dakota for play in 2012. The league will have 13 members at that time.
"We have 13 football-playing institutions that are very, very competitive with anybody left in the WAC," Fullerton said.
Fullerton said WAC members Idaho and Utah State would be ideal members of his league and said he is exploring creative ways to lure the two schools. Idaho was a member of the Big Sky from its 1963 inception until 1996.
"If down the road something happens that those guys understand and realize they can't catch the big guys and there's something else we can do that makes sense and bring some efficiencies back to the budgets of those schools ... Utah State and Idaho are the right kind of schools," Fullerton said.
Idaho and Utah State have not expressed an interest in moving to the Big Sky.
He added: "If there was a creative way that I could allow them to continue their FBS-ness and get this all put together, that's the direction I would take."
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