The news everyone was expecting came through today as the University of Denver Pioneers, Texas-San Antonio Roadruners and Texas State Bobcats have accepted offers to join the WAC, beginning in 2012.
“We have worked diligently trying to find a home that makes more sense so that our fans, our alumni, our university can know the schools and embrace the schools,” DU Peg Bradley-Doppes, the vice chancellor for athletics said.
Denver will join the conference as a non-football school, while Texas State and UTSA will increase the conference’s football membership to 8, after next season’s departures of the Nevada Wolfpack, Boise State Broncos and Fresno State Bulldogs.
“I am confident that these three new members along with the six other WAC schools will continue to compete at the highest level of the NCAA,” WAC commissioner Karl Benson said in a statement.
Intertwined with the excitement of adding new schools came a jolt from the University of Montana Grizzlies, who declined an offer from the conference, opting instead to remain as an FCS school in the Big Sky conference. The WAC was hoping to add Montana, a perennial FCS title contender, to replace Boise State as the conference’s marquee football program.
According to reports, Montana agonized over the decision, but in the end, Montana president Royce Engstrom spelled out the reasons the Grizzlies declined the invitation.
Engstrom said there were three keys to his decision — he wanted to maintain the cross-state football rivalry with Montana State, he wanted UM to compete against institutions with similar academic missions and he wanted to maintain the prestige and integrity the program has demonstrated over the years.