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Originally published Wednesday, September 29, 2010 at 11:01 AM

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Seattle U. could receive invitation to join Western Athletic Conference

Seattle University made its pitch to join the Western Athletic Conference, and could receive an invitation to join the conference in the next two months.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Seattle University will receive serious consideration to join the Western Athletic Conference, WAC commissioner Karl Benson said Wednesday, and could be given an invitation in the next two months.

Seattle U. athletic director Bill Hogan made a 45-minute presentation to WAC athletic directors at a meeting Tuesday in Dallas, and Benson said during a teleconference Wednesday morning that WAC officials were "very impressed."

Seattle U. is one of five schools under consideration to join the WAC, the others being Denver, Montana, Texas-San Antonio and Texas State.

Seattle U. and Denver are non-football-playing schools and would be invited for their men's basketball and other programs.

Hogan said 17 of Seattle U.'s 19 sports would be able to move to the WAC and said, "With so many sports it would fit us quite well. ... To be a part of the presentation as a potential conference member, we think that is a significant development for Seattle U. athletics."

Seattle U. is in the process of making the move to full Division I status. Benson said if Seattle U. were invited it would join the conference for the 2012-13 season, the first year the school is eligible for the NCAA basketball tournament.

Benson said all of the schools made it "very, very clear that they had strong interest in the WAC." Seattle U. is playing as an independent but has said it would like to join a conference. Many figured the West Coast Conference might be a natural fit. Seattle U. was a member of the WCC before dropping out of Division I in 1980. However, the WCC recently invited Brigham Young to join for men's basketball and has not shown interest in inviting Seattle U.

Benson said WAC officials will make campus visits to each of the schools and that invitations could then be extended "in the next 30 to 60 days."

It is expected the invitations could come in waves, with the WAC attempting to fill its football vacancies first, then move on to Seattle U. and Denver, which is a member of the Sun Belt Conference.

Texas-San Antonio and Texas State (located in San Marcos) are each Football Championship Subdivision schools that are looking to make the move to Football Bowl Subdivision status. Each is a member of the Southland Conference, and reports out of Texas said the two schools were leaving. Benson said Montana — a member of the FCS Big Sky Conference — did not make a formal presentation to join the WAC and is conducting a feasibility study of whether it wants to make the move to FBS.

The WAC will lose Boise State, Fresno State and Nevada to the Mountain West Conference the next two years. Benson said the main goal for the WAC is to have eight football-playing schools for the 2012 season. The six schools expected to remain in the WAC are Idaho, Hawaii, Louisiana Tech, New Mexico State, San Jose State and Utah State.

Seattle U. will play Idaho twice in basketball this season and also has games set against San Jose State and Louisiana Tech. Hogan noted the Redhawks have had good rivalries with WAC schools through the years.

"One of the models we have looked at is eight football-playing schools and two non-football playing schools," Benson said. "In that model, Denver and Seattle would both be on the docket. However, I don't think we are going to rule out that we might be a nine-team football conference and 12 teams for basketball (or some other combinations)."

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com

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