WAC announces changes for '96-'97 season

by David Gordon

The 48-member Western Athletic Conference council met in Salt Lake City to discuss several issues facing the conference as it begins its first season of 16-team competition.

Three representatives from each school addressed issues ranging from television contracts to officiating to how 48 people can make decisions. It was the first time that all 16 schools had met.

Several important decisions were made, and the WAC used the meeting to make several announcements.

* Senior women administrators will join a single group that will be responsible for issues regarding all sports. They previously handled only women's issues.

"I think it is significant as we approach the 21st century that we bring both groups to the table for all issues," WAC Commissioner Karl Benson said. "It was only 1991 when women's athletics was incorporated under the WAC umbrella."

Athletic Director Bobby May concurred. "The feeling was that the two groups should be brought together," he said. "It's a good situation. There will be more input and more opportunity for discussion."

* A 30-minute "This Week in the WAC" show will begin showing this fall. Prime Sports may be the carrier.

* The WAC intends to find neutral sites for golf championships. However, it announced that the 1997 men's tournament will be hosted by Rice.

* Since Wyoming has dropped its baseball program, the WAC announced that Grand Canyon University will take its place. Three coaches and three athletic directors will meet to discuss the site of the conference baseball tournament and selection criteria for the three at-large berths in it.

* The WAC will limit the number of non- Division I opponents a school can face during its basketball season. This is an attempt to improve the conference's power ratings for the NCAA tournament selection committee.

"We are strongly encouraging all our schools to upgrade their basketball schedules," Benson said.

* In an effort to improve officiating, a comprehensive evaluation of officials will take place throughout the year.

"Our fans, media and teams demand and expect improved officiating," Benson said. "Our supervisors will do a thorough and complete job as the season goes by."

Regarding the meetings, Benson said, "We accomplished everything we needed to accomplish. The nuts and bolts are in place, but more than that we have prepared the national audience.

"The people in intercollegiate athletics I think are anxious to see how the WAC is going to perform."

This item appeared in the Sports section of the May 17, 1996 issue.

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