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Report: The WAC Wanted to "Trade" For UTEP, Offer Louisiana Tech to Conference USA

via the <a href="">Western Athletic Conference</a>
via the Western Athletic Conference

Benson Wanted to Lure UTEP Back With BYU's Non-Football Membership, ESPN Deal

Ferd Lewis of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser is reporting that WAC Commissioner Karl Benson attempted to use BYU's potential non-football alignment with his conference to lure the UTEP Miners back into the league.  Benson reportedly called UTEP athletic director Bob Stull to tell him that BYU was coming back into the league to gauge UTEP's interest in returning to the WAC.  Benson was planning to use BYU's presence, and a likely new ESPN contract, to lure UTEP back into the WAC and was planning to offer Louisiana Tech to Conference USA in exchange for the Miners.

According to the report:

When Benson mentioned the possibility of BYU returning to the WAC during a telephone conversation, UTEP athletic director Bob Stull said he initially thought the whole concept "was kinda out there, to tell the truth" because he didn't foresee the Cougars leaving a league they had helped create.

But then, Stull said, Benson hinted not only was it in the works but "'there might be some more changes.'"

Stull said there was no offer or a promise of one at the time. "It (the conversation) was what it was," Stull said.

"Kinda out there" is right, you'd have to imagine it would have to take a lot more than BYU on the basketball and soccer schedule to cause UTEP to return to the WAC.  Benson had also contacted San Diego State and UNLV about returning to the conference.  ESPN and the WAC appear to have agreed to a TV deal that would have increased the current WAC TV payouts by over 300%.  The ESPN deal was, or possibly is, contingent on the Cougars joining the league.  

Benson planned to contact Conference USA about a "trade" where the C-USA would send Louisiana Tech to the C-USA in exchange for UTEP.  

Benson, according to documents, was laying the groundwork for what he hoped would be the return of the Miners to the WAC after a seven-year absence. According to e-mails, he planned to talk to UTEP officials and Conference USA about a "trade" of sorts to make it happen.

Benson's avowed goal, according to memos, was UTEP's return to the WAC, where it had spent 37 years. In return, Louisiana Tech would go to C-USA, which has been its goal since leaving the Sun Belt in 2001.

I have been a vocal critic of Benson.  I, like most Miner fans, blame his misguided efforts to expand the original WAC from Hawaii to Houston as the main reason why the original league fell apart.  I have to hand it to him , though, this plot was well thought out and he seemed to be very close to getting a measure of revenge with the MWC.  

Stull, it seems, wasn't too eager to jump aboard this phase of the plan, but I can't help but admire Benson's effort to make the WAC relevant again just months after losing Boise State to the MWC.