DSU has entered its first year in the Western Athletic Conference. Michael Santoscoy emphasizes the importance of sports fans paying attention to the teams and players in the WAC. Photos by Breanna Biorato.
When I heard the news about Dixie State University transitioning to the Division I level and that it would be competing in the Western Athletic Conference, I wasn’t too familiar with the conference.
I didn’t know who was currently competing in the WAC, how well-known the conference is among the other major collegiate schools, how competitive the programs can be, or how recent its last national championship victory in any sport was. I thought the WAC wasn’t worth all the hype and DSU Athletics would transition easily into its new conference.
Well, after watching the Trailblazers compete in certain sports against WAC opponents, it blew my previous position out of the water. The WAC is very competitive and sports fans need to pay closer attention to this conference.
Currently, the teams in the WAC are California Baptist, Chicago State University, Dixie State University, Grand Canyon University, New Mexico State University, Seattle University, Tarleton State University, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, and Utah Valley University.
All these institutions are important to mention because they have talented student-athletes who can ball out and go toe-to-toe with the best non-conference players. Even though these student-athletes don’t go to big name schools, they have the talent to stand out and they deserve the attention of belonging with the top players in the country.
An athlete to follow currently in the WAC is Center Fardaws Aimaq, who plays basketball for UVU and leads men’s college basketball with the most rebounds averaged per game. When I watched DSU’s men’s basketball trying to box out Aimaq, he out-muscled the Trailblazers big and got 38 rebounds in two games combined. This had me thinking there can be more players like Aimaq in the WAC who can compete and be fun to watch play during a game.
Not only does the WAC have star-studded talent in men’s basketball, but also in other sports like volleyball, softball, baseball or even soccer. In the WAC’s history, it has been possible for talented players and teams to go out and win a national title.
The last national championship the WAC had in any sport was when Fresno State University was part of the conference in 2008 and won a baseball title. The WAC has won multiple national championships in the past from baseball, softball, men’s cross country, men’s indoor track and field, and men’s golf.
I know it has been a while since any WAC team has been in contention for a national championship, but with WAC commissioner Jeff Hurd expanding the conference, it can boost the chances of a WAC team bringing home a national championship.
Hurd made the expansion announcement on Jan. 14 and five teams are being invited to join the WAC, which will bring the total number of teams to 14. Hurd also announced the reinstatement of football and that the WAC would be competing at the Football Championship Subdivision level. This is a smart move by the commissioner because it allows for a bigger fan base in the WAC, more views when games are being televised, and has these 14 teams compete in the hope of bringing a national title to the conference.
Imagine more star-studded talent coming to the WAC and having the opportunity to watch these student-athletes compete in person. Then with this expansion, it can help recruit more student-athletes to come to a WAC institution and play for not only a conference title, but a national championship as well.
When all the 14 teams are together come the 2022 season, don’t underestimate what these programs bring to the table. They can compete at the highest level with the best programs and players to bring more attention to the WAC.