Update 12/10: It’s official! Sports teams at UH Mānoa have joined the Mountain West Conference (in football) and Big West Conference (for most other sports), beginning with the 2012-13 season. Read the press release.
The University of Hawaiʻi has a “handshake” agreement for Mānoa’s Warrior football program to become part of the Mountain West Conference, UH President M.R.C. Greenwood announced in an evening press conference Nov. 18.
Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson called from the conference’s headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colo., earlier in the day, asking UH to “begin discussions with the aim of the football team entering the conference as soon as possible,” Greenwood said. “We’ve got to agree on the details.”
The Mountain West has nine teams, including former UH Western Athletic Conference rivals, who compete in all major college sports. It already has announced plans to expand to 10 teams by 2012, with the addition of Boise State, Nevada and Fresno State. (Utah and Brigham Young will leave next season.)
While Hawaiʻi has been a strong member of the WAC since 1979, membership changes are moving that conference toward the central region of the United States, making travel more difficult and expensive for UH teams and reducing known rivals for UH fans, noted Mānoa Athletics Director Jim Donovan. “These are schools our fans resonate with. It’s what people want,” he said referring to the Mountain West Conference.
Responding to speculation that UH Mānoa’s other athletic teams will join the Big West Conference, Donovan acknowledged that the BWC has removed its moratorium on new members. When he polled the head coaches for non-football Rainbow Warrior and Wahine sports, 16 out of 18 named the Big West as their first choice for conference realignment, he said.
Concentrated in California, Big West would be a competitive home for baseball, softball, volleyball and water polo and probably good for basketball and soccer, too, Donovan said.
Likewise, Mountain West membership will “rocket our recruiting,” football Coach Greg McMackin predicted. He was asked if the football team’s success this year (including being the first NCAA Division I team guaranteed a bowl berth) contributed to the Mountain West overtures.
“People know what a great program exists here and what a great university this is,” he responded.
Mountain West teams include Air Force, Colorado State, New Mexico, San Diego State, Texas Christian University, UNLV and Wyoming. Boise State will join in 2011, followed by Fresno State and Nevada in 2012.