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Invitation to join WAC likely for Montana
The Western Athletic Conference may be being coy, because although the invite to the University of Montana hasn’t come yet, it seems certain.
Montana athletic director Jim O’Day has spent the last couple of days in Dallas attending a meeting of the WAC presidents and athletic directors. He was careful to say UM has not yet been invited to join the Football Bowl Subdivision league, and that he was brought down more for a fact-finding mission.
“It was just to basically answer questions from us, if we had any,” he said Tuesday. “Nothing really came out of it other than the fact they have real interest in the University of Montana.
“They feel it’s a great academic and athletic fit for what the WAC is trying for. We met for an hour and a half.”
O’Day said he watched four schools give presentations to league officials as basketball-only member schools: Texas-San Antonio, Texas State-San Marcos, Seattle University and the University of Denver.
He wasn’t asked to give a presentation.
O’Day, the only representative from a Big Sky Conference school at the meeting, also said the WAC intends to alter its original timetable for formally inviting schools. Originally set for the spring, he said invitations will go out perhaps by the end of this calendar year.
O’Day told Grizzly boosters and repeated to the Missoulian last week there is little doubt an invitation will come UM’s way.
“We fit a lot into their mold,” he said Tuesday. “But we’re also in a good spot where we’re at. There’s just going to be some tough decisions that have to be made. It is complicated, and it’s going to get much more so in the coming months.”
The decisions will mainly fall to Royce Engstrom, who succeeds George Dennison as UM’s president on Oct. 15.
The WAC is a nine-team league for football and basketball and includes former Big Sky Conference schools Idaho, Boise State and Nevada. However, Boise State - which boasts the No. 3 team in the FBS and will be on the cover of this week’s Sports Illustrated - and Nevada have announced their plans to leave the league for the Mountain West Conference, along with Fresno State.
Hawaii is also mulling a move to independent status for football and another league for its other sports. All of that leaves the WAC in hurry-up mode.
The Griz, 2-2 and ranked No. 12 in the Sports Network/Fathead.com’s FCS Top 25 this season, have been a perennial Big Sky and FCS power. They have played in seven FCS title games, but O’Day reiterated that was just part of the University of Montana’s appeal.
“They feel UM is a peer school, academically,” he said.
By Fritz Neighbor, The Missoulian