Utah Valley has announced that they will be leaving the Great West Conference for the Western Athletic Conference in 2013. As Jeff Goodman of Cbssports.com wrote, almost immediately there were rumblings that the WAC may merge in some way, enveloping two of the remaining three Great West teams, Chicago State and Texas Pan-American into the WAC.
A Great West basketball coach said, “With the league going down to four teams, don’t be shocked to see some sort of merger between the remaining teams — except for maybe NJIT — and the WAC.”
The two schools are almost certainly looking for new homes in 2013.
Texas Pan-American Sports Information Director Jonah Goldberg said the Broncs, “We continue to monitor the landscape of conference realignment and have taken a proactive approach to provide our student-athletes and coaches with an opportunity for NCAA postseason competition and conference rivalries.”
Chicago State Athletic Director Dan Schumacher, while declining comments on specific discussions did say, “There are many discussions involving Chicago State and conference affiliation.”
With Chicago State and Texas Pan-American seemingly on the move in the near future, what does that mean for the soon-to-be lone remaining member of the Great West, New Jersey Institute of Technology?
According to Athletic Director Lenny Kaplan schools have yet to hear from the Great West specifically, there is a conference call coming up, but the school is moving forward with the premise they will need a new home in 2013.
While other conferences continue to expand, the Great West has shrunk and shrunk rapidly, Kaplan says, “the way the NCAA looks at us as a conference has prohibited us from growing.”
The GWC was never a good fit for NJIT geographically and they have been seeking membership elsewhere even prior to the Utah Valley announcement.
Kaplan says that he would like the new home of the Highlanders to be “geographically compatible, preferably in the northeast” and “academically comparable.” “We want to make sure when you get into a league you want to make sure you can compete, and I think in the northeast we can compete.”
To that end NJIT has centered its relocation efforts in the northeast, “We are constantly in contact with a couple of regional conferences, we have not had luck in gaining membership into any of those.”
The Northeast Conference and more specifically perhaps the America East, who may be looking to replace Boston University who is leaving for the Patriot League in 2013, seem like logical landing spots for NJIT.
Kaplan doesn’t believe a school can survive competing as a complete independent but says, “there has been no discussion about moving backwards” when asked about the possibility of moving back to Division 2.
The ever-shrinking Great West has left three teams without a home and for one at least it gives them hope that they can finally be able to compete in a stable conference in their own part of the country.
Messages left for the Great West and Western Athletic Conferences were not returned.