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Ten years ago, the MWC almost got destroyed
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UTEPDallas Offline
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Ten years ago, the MWC almost got destroyed
It's been 10 years since "The Project." The Deseret News has an interesting article on how BYU and the WAC almost destroyed the MWC. Two things got my attention: ESPN was behind it and C-USA saved the MWC from destruction.

https://www.deseret.com/sports/2020/8/29...arl-benson

Articles from The Salt Lake Tribune and The Honolulu Star-Advertiser at the time.

https://archive.sltrib.com/story.php?ref...n.html.csp

https://www.staradvertiser.com/2010/08/2...big-plans/
08-31-2020 12:48 AM
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UTEPDallas Offline
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RE: Ten years ago, the MWC almost got destroyed
ESPN destroyed two FBS conferences in the last decade: Big East and WAC even though the MWC was its target. Those two conferences stopped sponsoring football and now have UConn and NMSU play an independent schedule in football.
08-31-2020 01:09 AM
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MWC Tex Offline
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RE: Ten years ago, the MWC almost got destroyed
I doubt the MW was almost destroyed, it wasn’t even close. I’d doubt the other schools involved didn’t care about it because what good is having BYU w/o football?
It actually showed the lack of power BYU thought of itself, when Nevada, Fresno St and Hawaii left.
08-31-2020 07:00 AM
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The Cutter of Bish Offline
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RE: Ten years ago, the MWC almost got destroyed
I suspect that even if SDSU and Boise stayed east, the conference would have retained the name and the WAC schools would still have moved over because of the other schools they got to hook up with. And now, even with those gone, those remaining, and those who joined up in the ensuing chaos, it is “in name only.” It lost probably its best third of football, and is now half remnants, half WAC.

Still a great conference. And I’d say that, while a survivor, ESPN still got stuff that it wanted.
08-31-2020 07:35 AM
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quo vadis Online
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RE: Ten years ago, the MWC almost got destroyed
(08-31-2020 12:48 AM)UTEPDallas Wrote:  It's been 10 years since "The Project." The Deseret News has an interesting article on how BYU and the WAC almost destroyed the MWC. Two things got my attention: ESPN was behind it and C-USA saved the MWC from destruction.

Aaah 2010 - 2012, the lazy crazy days of realignment. And all spurred by TV deals struck by the SEC and ACC that turned out to be relative turkeys.

We've already had the 10th anniversary of Nebraska bolting the Big 12 for the B1G. But this article reminds us all the action was not among the AQ conferences.

Lots more 10th anniversaries to come in the next two years.

07-coffee3
08-31-2020 07:43 AM
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f1do Offline
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RE: Ten years ago, the MWC almost got destroyed
Jay Drew (who covered the original) makes a big deal out of each anniversary. If you google you will notice that he did a big article on the 5th anniversary too.
08-31-2020 08:55 AM
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Fighting Muskie Online
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RE: Ten years ago, the MWC almost got destroyed
I never gave much thought to ESPN’s part in the WAC trying to lure BYU in. It almost makes me think that the end goal was to have another WAC-16, by getting BYU to flip (with a less than 8 game commitment) and then the rest of the MWC, nullifying the MWC tv contract and bringing all those schools under the ESPN banner.

Quad 1: Hawaii, SDSU, Fresno St, SJSU
Quad 2: Nevada, UNLV, Boise St, Idaho
Quad 3: Utah St, Wyoming, Colorado St, AFA
Quad 4: UNM, NMSU, TCU, LA Tech
Non-fb: BYU

This could have then moved to a more manageable unit after TCU received a Big East (then later a Big 12 one) and then shuffling between Big East and C-USA opened a spot for LA Tech in C-USA.
(This post was last modified: 08-31-2020 11:26 AM by Fighting Muskie.)
08-31-2020 11:22 AM
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HawaiiMongoose Offline
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RE: Ten years ago, the MWC almost got destroyed
"Chagrin" is a mild description of the response to what Welty did. When the WAC presidents approved the Project they talked specifically about the likelihood that the MWC would respond with attempted divide-and-conquer invitations to selected WAC members. They had given each other personal assurances that they would turn down any such offers. Hence Welty's about-face provoked fury among the conference schools he betrayed. The WAC and MWC had a neck-and-neck rivalry at the time and it was obvious to the left-behind schools that by accepting the MWC offer and recruiting Nevada to come along Welty had stabbed WAC football in the heart.

Albrecht was the unsung hero of the story. He stuck to his word and turned down the MWC's invitation to USU. Fortunately he and his school weren't punished for his display of integrity as USU still made it onto the MWC lifeboat a couple of years later.
08-31-2020 01:29 PM
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YNot Offline
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RE: Ten years ago, the MWC almost got destroyed
The MWC's big mistake was not inviting Boise State, Houston and Fresno State when Utah, BYU and TCU were in the conference.

THAT conference would have been able to have a CCG in Vegas and would have been a BCS exempt conference for a couple of years. The MWC would have been sitting in a much better position when the Big East imploded. The MWC probably doesn't lose BYU, TCU, Boise State or San Diego State to independence and the Big East. Instead, the MWC adds Hawaii to back-fill for Utah and SMU to replace TCU, who still leaves for the B12.

MOUNTAIN
Wyoming
Colorado State
Air Force
New Mexico
SMU
Houston

WEST
Hawaii
San Diego State
Fresno State
UNLV
Boise State
BYU

The AAC doesn't go to Texas, instead sticking with Cincinnati, USF, UConn, UCF, Temple, Navy, Memphis, ECU (football only) and perhaps Marshall or UMass. CUSA doesn't lose Tulane or Tulsa.

So, WAC football survives with a couple of Texas teams and Big Sky callups.
(This post was last modified: 08-31-2020 01:45 PM by YNot.)
08-31-2020 01:44 PM
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The Cutter of Bish Offline
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RE: Ten years ago, the MWC almost got destroyed
(08-31-2020 01:29 PM)HawaiiMongoose Wrote:  "Chagrin" is a mild description of the response to what Welty did. When the WAC presidents approved the Project they talked specifically about the likelihood that the MWC would respond with attempted divide-and-conquer invitations to selected WAC members. They had given each other personal assurances that they would turn down any such offers. Hence Welty's about-face provoked fury among the conference schools he betrayed. The WAC and MWC had a neck-and-neck rivalry at the time and it was obvious to the left-behind schools that by accepting the MWC offer and recruiting Nevada to come along Welty had stabbed WAC football in the heart.

Albrecht was the unsung hero of the story. He stuck to his word and turned down the MWC's invitation to USU. Fortunately he and his school weren't punished for his display of integrity as USU still made it onto the MWC lifeboat a couple of years later.

It’s not unlike what occurred in the Big East when it lost UMFL and BC. But even then, the same parallels were there regarding the prestige and perception of power the conference had over the other. I think it was just nuts to expect a face-value answer to be good enough.

I don’t know if I’d say neck and neck, though. The top of the MWC tended to be thicker than WAC. One had Utah and TCU while the other Boise and Hawaii making big news, but the MWC had a more robust middle. And the name value of those schools who built the WAC. Being with those schools was always a chaser. Who can blame them?
08-31-2020 01:49 PM
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Fighting Muskie Online
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RE: Ten years ago, the MWC almost got destroyed
(08-31-2020 01:44 PM)YNot Wrote:  The MWC's big mistake was not inviting Boise State, Houston and Fresno State when Utah, BYU and TCU were in the conference.

THAT conference would have been able to have a CCG in Vegas and would have been a BCS exempt conference for a couple of years. The MWC would have been sitting in a much better position when the Big East imploded. The MWC probably doesn't lose BYU, TCU, Boise State or San Diego State to independence and the Big East. Instead, the MWC adds Hawaii to back-fill for Utah and SMU to replace TCU, who still leaves for the B12.

MOUNTAIN
Wyoming
Colorado State
Air Force
New Mexico
SMU
Houston

WEST
Hawaii
San Diego State
Fresno State
UNLV
Boise State
BYU

The AAC doesn't go to Texas, instead sticking with Cincinnati, USF, UConn, UCF, Temple, Navy, Memphis, ECU (football only) and perhaps Marshall or UMass. CUSA doesn't lose Tulane or Tulsa.

So, WAC football survives with a couple of Texas teams and Big Sky callups.

An interesting thought. The whole reason why there was a MWC is because the Airport 5 wanted to play annually and you could do that in an East-West Division format but this could have been a workable alternative:

North: Boise St, BYU, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado St, AFA
South: Fresno St, San Diego St, UNLV, UNM, TCU, Houston
08-31-2020 02:11 PM
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Fighting Muskie Online
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RE: Ten years ago, the MWC almost got destroyed
(08-31-2020 01:49 PM)The Cutter of Bish Wrote:  
(08-31-2020 01:29 PM)HawaiiMongoose Wrote:  "Chagrin" is a mild description of the response to what Welty did. When the WAC presidents approved the Project they talked specifically about the likelihood that the MWC would respond with attempted divide-and-conquer invitations to selected WAC members. They had given each other personal assurances that they would turn down any such offers. Hence Welty's about-face provoked fury among the conference schools he betrayed. The WAC and MWC had a neck-and-neck rivalry at the time and it was obvious to the left-behind schools that by accepting the MWC offer and recruiting Nevada to come along Welty had stabbed WAC football in the heart.

Albrecht was the unsung hero of the story. He stuck to his word and turned down the MWC's invitation to USU. Fortunately he and his school weren't punished for his display of integrity as USU still made it onto the MWC lifeboat a couple of years later.

It’s not unlike what occurred in the Big East when it lost UMFL and BC. But even then, the same parallels were there regarding the prestige and perception of power the conference had over the other. I think it was just nuts to expect a face-value answer to be good enough.

I don’t know if I’d say neck and neck, though. The top of the MWC tended to be thicker than WAC. One had Utah and TCU while the other Boise and Hawaii making big news, but the MWC had a more robust middle. And the name value of those schools who built the WAC. Being with those schools was always a chaser. Who can blame them?

The WAC had a much larger bottom than the MWC.

I think the other WAC institutions were justified in being livid at Fresno St and Nevada for breaking ranks. They had a plan in place that was going to take care of all 8 of them—BYU was going to come over and then the WAC would have leverage at the bargaining table to talk a merger involving all 16 plus BYU.

Those 2 schools took the easy way out, burning the other 6 in the process.

Things eventually worked out for Utah St and San Jose St. LA Tech found their own path but look at the other 3—Hawaii is stuck paying the Big West travel money and we are all too familiar with the fates of NMSU and Idaho.
08-31-2020 02:19 PM
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RE: Ten years ago, the MWC almost got destroyed
Uh, actually, that article is not entirely accurate. BYU's desire to park its non-football sports was well known once it made the decision to go indy in football (right after Utah to the Pac12 was announced). It didn't take a "leak" from anybody, C-USA or otherwise to figure that one out. What wasn't generally known is that Benson got greedy and preliminarily tried to lure UNLV and SDSU to the WAC as well. And BYU has always denied being a part of that; much less knowing anything about it. Because losing SDSU and UNLV would have effectively tanked the MWC entirely; which BYU has always denied trying to do. Benson had talks with both the Rebel and Aztec AD's and it was they that "leaked" that to the rest of the MWC. Not that it was a "leak" - they kind of had the fiduciary duty to do so. That was the "Project" - the Benson gambit to both lure BYU and other schools and destroy the MWC. The "Project" wasn't merely BYU going indy and parking non-football sports in the WAC. We - the other MWC schools always suspected Utah State being much more involved and the article kind of confirms that.

As to Fresno State, they (like TCU) had been screwed in 1998 by the Gang of 5 and had wanted to join the MWC from then until they actually joined. Everyone knew that too. The idea that they would not accept a bid if offered (despite what Welty might or might not have said) is ludicrous. BYU parking its non-football sports in the WAC might have worked --- if Benson (and presumably Utah State) had not gotten so greedy and decided to shoot for the fences rather than making a merely marginal gain. Once the Benson Project was revealed, the outcome was pre-ordained. To link BYU to the Project as the article does, ignores everything they've ever said about it.

Not that it matters anyway. TCU in the Big 12 is far superior to anything BYU has. And if nthey want to ever join the Big 12 (or a remnant thereof), they really ought to continue denying being involved in the Benson Project, like they always have.
08-31-2020 10:20 PM
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RE: Ten years ago, the MWC almost got destroyed
(08-31-2020 10:20 PM)Jared7 Wrote:  Uh, actually, that article is not entirely accurate. BYU's desire to park its non-football sports was well known once it made the decision to go indy in football (right after Utah to the Pac12 was announced). It didn't take a "leak" from anybody, C-USA or otherwise to figure that one out. What wasn't generally known is that Benson got greedy and preliminarily tried to lure UNLV and SDSU to the WAC as well. And BYU has always denied being a part of that; much less knowing anything about it. Because losing SDSU and UNLV would have effectively tanked the MWC entirely; which BYU has always denied trying to do. Benson had talks with both the Rebel and Aztec AD's and it was they that "leaked" that to the rest of the MWC. Not that it was a "leak" - they kind of had the fiduciary duty to do so. That was the "Project" - the Benson gambit to both lure BYU and other schools and destroy the MWC. The "Project" wasn't merely BYU going indy and parking non-football sports in the WAC. We - the other MWC schools always suspected Utah State being much more involved and the article kind of confirms that.

As to Fresno State, they (like TCU) had been screwed in 1998 by the Gang of 5 and had wanted to join the MWC from then until they actually joined. Everyone knew that too. The idea that they would not accept a bid if offered (despite what Welty might or might not have said) is ludicrous. BYU parking its non-football sports in the WAC might have worked --- if Benson (and presumably Utah State) had not gotten so greedy and decided to shoot for the fences rather than making a merely marginal gain. Once the Benson Project was revealed, the outcome was pre-ordained. To link BYU to the Project as the article does, ignores everything they've ever said about it.

Not that it matters anyway. TCU in the Big 12 is far superior to anything BYU has. And if nthey want to ever join the Big 12 (or a remnant thereof), they really ought to continue denying being involved in the Benson Project, like they always have.
I was working in Tark's office when the split happened. We were told the only way Fresno was going to get in the MWC is if we fired Tark asap. Fresno wasn't going to do that since he was going to get us the Savemart Center. It was BYU and Utah, I think, that didn't want Tark for is shady past and our 2nd change U players he'd recruit. So of course Welty would turn on BYU to join the conference we always thought we should be a part of. I believe it was Boise St. that tipped off Fresno about joining the MWC to stop the project.
09-01-2020 12:24 AM
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The Cutter of Bish Offline
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RE: Ten years ago, the MWC almost got destroyed
(08-31-2020 02:19 PM)Fighting Muskie Wrote:  The WAC had a much larger bottom than the MWC.

It did. And not just with the likes of those left behind, like Idaho and NMSU, but also SJSU and, at that time, USU. Hawaii wasn’t always good for it, either.

But, even there, I still believe part of the reason folks wouldn’t consider the MWC as a major despite that top end was because its bottom, especially UNLV, was putrid. UNLV may be the worst D1A program since the FBS/FCS split. UNM had some hot garbage runs in there, too. A middle/low of Wyo, CSU, SDSU, and the like may have been forgivable, but for that top end of the conference, you knew you had at least two easy wins in the bag with UNLV and UNM.
09-01-2020 07:29 AM
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Fighting Muskie Online
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RE: Ten years ago, the MWC almost got destroyed
Like I said before, I think the goal was a merger of the 2 conferences under the WAC banner:

Both conferences had 8 and then there was BYU.

If the WAC gets Boise to reverse their decision to leave its 9-7. Flip UNLV and San Diego St next and suddenly it’s 11-5.

The plan was to get BYU first and then chip away at the others until a merger occurred.
09-01-2020 07:42 AM
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RE: Ten years ago, the MWC almost got destroyed
I guess the question I’d have is: what’s the value of the WAC name? And that could it have been feasible for MWC to buy the rights to the name, like the C7 did with the Big East?

Schools split from the body and did their own thing. How much do they even care if it’s WAC? That’s why, in some respects, you got a different version of the project: merge bodies but you just rid yourself of BYU and a few others who were never desirable or geographically feasible, and you kept the name instead of taking theirs.
(This post was last modified: 09-02-2020 07:02 AM by The Cutter of Bish.)
09-02-2020 07:01 AM
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quo vadis Online
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RE: Ten years ago, the MWC almost got destroyed
What should have happened is circa 2007, the best of the WAC and MW football schools should have merged. That might have created a conference that could have met the AQ criteria for the BCS, and formed another Power conference.

If a conference with Utah, TCU, Boise, and BYU and a few others had existed circa 2012, then they might have made the "power" cut.
(This post was last modified: 09-02-2020 07:47 AM by quo vadis.)
09-02-2020 07:47 AM
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RE: Ten years ago, the MWC almost got destroyed
The bottom-feeders in football back then (UNM, UNLV, SDSU) were behemoths in basketball with 10k+ attendance, so no one from the MWC was ever getting left out.
09-02-2020 08:24 AM
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quo vadis Online
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RE: Ten years ago, the MWC almost got destroyed
(09-02-2020 08:24 AM)IWokeUpLikeThis Wrote:  The bottom-feeders in football back then (UNM, UNLV, SDSU) were behemoths in basketball with 10k+ attendance, so no one from the MWC was ever getting left out.

Yeah, but that was a lack of forward thinking by the parties involved. Should have realized that when it comes to overall conference Power status only football counts.

A combined WAC/MW based on football maybe could have had enough football clout and performance to crack the AQ club.
09-02-2020 08:53 AM
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