WAC Celebrates 50 Years
The WAC provides its student-athletes the chance to travel to scenic destinations and gain exposure in some of the nation's most diverse markets. In addition, the WAC's student-athletes work to achieve the highest levels of success with the academic support of their respective institutions.
The WAC has experienced tremendous success over the years. Since 2000, a total of 43 football teams have been invited to bowl games, including more than half of its teams in 2008 with a record-tying five. The conference has sent teams to BCS bowl games three times since 2006. In men's basketball, the WAC has sent at least two teams to the NCAA Tournament in 24 of the past 29 seasons. In baseball, the WAC has boasted two national champions since 2003. In women's basketball, Louisiana Tech basketball has played in all but three NCAA postseason tournaments during its history.
In 2001, the WAC partnered with ESPN for coverage of football and basketball giving the conference national exposure from one of the most respected broadcast entities in the country. The WAC also officially added WAC.tv in 2006 to give fans streaming internet access to many of its postseason championships including volleyball, soccer, swimming and diving, basketball, softball and baseball.
The WAC is the sixth oldest among the nation's 11 Division I-A conferences. Its history traces back to July 27, 1962, when the original six-team league of Arizona, Arizona State, Brigham Young, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming began competition.
The first championship was held in November 1962, when Arizona won the men's cross country title and New Mexico followed with the first WAC football title. Arizona finished second in the NCAA College World Series and, less than three years later, Arizona State claimed the league's first NCAA title when the Sun Devils won the College World Series trophy. Fresno State was the last WAC school to earn an NCAA team title when it won the College World Series in 2008.
Since 1962, several changes have occurred. UTEP and Colorado State became members in September 1967, while Arizona and Arizona State withdrew on June 30, 1978. The WAC then added San Diego State (1978), Hawai‘i (1979) and Air Force (1980). Before 1990, the WAC sponsored championships only in men's sports. However, a merger with the High Country Athletic Conference formed a single conference under one administrative structure, and the 1990-91 athletic year was the first in which both men and women competed under the WAC name. Fresno State was added in 1992, and then in 1996, the women's programs from Air Force and Hawai‘i along with six new schools (UNLV, Rice, San Jose State, SMU, TCU and Tulsa) came into the WAC. Air Force, Brigham Young, Colorado State, UNLV, New Mexico, San Diego State, Utah and Wyoming withdrew on June 30, 1999. Nevada (2000), Boise State (2001) and Louisiana Tech (2001) were added while TCU withdrew following the 2000-01 season. In 2005, Idaho, New Mexico State and Utah State joined the WAC after Rice, SMU, UTEP and Tulsa withdrew. Boise State withdrew prior to the 2011-12 season. The current membership began on July 1, 2012 when the WAC added Denver, Seattle, UT-Arlington, UTSA and Texas State to replace withdrawing members, Fresno State, Hawai‘i and Nevada. Boise State returns in 2013-14 in all sports except football.
The WAC has had just six commissioners in its history. Paul Brechler was named the first leader of the conference and held the position from 1962-1968. He was followed by Wiles Hallock (1968-71), Stan Bates (1971-80), Dr. Joe Kearney (1980-94), Karl Benson (1994-2012) and current interim commissioner Jeff Hurd (2012-present).
Presently, the WAC crowns team and individual champions in 19 sports - eight men's and 11 women's. For the men, there are championships in baseball, basketball, cross country, football, golf, tennis, indoor track and field and outdoor track and field. Championships for women are held in basketball, cross country, golf, gymnastics, soccer, softball, swimming and diving, tennis, indoor track and field, outdoor track and field and volleyball.
The WAC office has been located in the Denver area since the conference's inception with the exception of a two-year stay in Phoenix from 1964-66.