Gonzaga shakes down West Coast Conference

Photo courtesy The Denver Post

In an 11th hour effort to keep their conference basketball titan, Gonzaga, the West Coast Conference capitulated to the demands of the Bulldog basketball program, ensuring the league will be dominated by the Zags in the future. The agreement keeps the Bulldogs from bolting to the Mountain West Conference – at least for the short term.

We wrote about Gonzaga’s interest in moving to the Mountain West Conference and how that might affect DU’s conference membership hopes and dreams here.

According to the the Spokesman Review, under the new arrangement the West Coast Conference, member teams will play fewer conference basketball games in a new, unbalanced schedule format (18 to 16 conference games) and allow conference teams that advance deeper in the NCAA Tournament (i.e. Gonzaga) to keep a larger portion of the revenue. Additionally,  The San Diego Union-Tribune reported Gonzaga also will receive $1 million per year in NCAA Tournament ‘back shares’ of prior NCAA payouts. Finally, the top two seeds for the West Coast basketball tournament will receive two conference tournament byes which, essentially, is a coronation for one of the top two seeds for an automatic berth to the NCAA basketball playoffs. All these moves are tailored to the desires of Gonzaga and will hardly make fellow conference members stronger from top to bottom.

“You look at what the West Coast Conference did to accommodate them,” Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson told the San Diego newspaper Saturday. “Congratulations, that’s a good deal for them. There are just some things in there that I don’t think our membership would have accepted.

The only move that potentially helps the conference is the move to an unbalanced schedule with two additional ‘open’ games to schedule out-of-conference tilts. Under new NCAA Tournament playoff criteria, strength of schedule is critically important so WCC members will be able to schedule more high-profile games against non-conference power basketball schools. However, most of the other moves are specifically crafted to the benefit of Gonzaga.

Even with all these concessions, neither the WCC commissioner nor the Mountain West commissioners would put the chances of a future union to sleep citing ‘crystal balls’ and the changing basketball landscapes.

This is hardly a long-term formula for ‘league balance’ in basketball going forward but at least for now, it means the WCC isn’t expanding and Denver is staying put in the Summit League.

8 thoughts on “Gonzaga shakes down West Coast Conference”

  1. If the WCC came knocking on DU’s door, I am sure DU would listen, but I don’t think DU is actively campaigning to the WCC for membership as it once was, with promises of travel subsidies, etc. DU seems to be tired of begging for consideration.

    The bottom line is I don’t think DU wants to add new sports, which the WCC would likely require – likely sports such as softball, baseball, track, beach volleyball, etc. That would cost new millions that DU would need to raise from donors, as the school won’t shell out for it.

    Additionally, outside of Gonzaga and BYU, the WCC schools would not draw more fans in Denver than the Summit Schools do.

    The academic alignment piece with fellow mid-size privates (which one would think would be very attractive to DU) is something that fewer people in DU administration seem to care about.

    Finally, the Summit League is proving to be a very competitive conference for DU, with burgeoning rivalries with Omaha in multiple sports, and now North Dakota is joining the Summit, which may transport the hockey rivalry into other sports.

    In short. don’t hold your breath for the WCC.

    If DU men’s basketball ever gets to be a NCAA tourney caliber program on a consistent basis and drawing 6 or 7,000 fans per home game, the conference affiliation landscape becomes as different conversation. At that point, DU could consider multiple offers, including the MWC or even the Big East.

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      1. The Big East is comprised of almost all Catholic schools, but Butler is the one full member who is private, and non-Catholic. And if you get into Big East affiliate schools who play in the conference just for specific sports, there are a number of both private and public schools that fall outside the Catholic realm – inducing UConn in Field Hockey and Women’s Lacrosse, Cincinnati in Women’s Lax, DU in mens and women’s lacrosse, Florida in Women’s lacrosse, Old Dominon in Field Hockey, Temple in field hockey and women’s lacrosse, Vanderbilt in Women’s Lacrosse, Liberty in Field Hockey and Quinnipiac in Field Hockey.

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  2. The Big East has expressed an interest in DU (a current ‘affiliate member’ in lax). They are said to have expressed an interest in DU but only if our basketball program was elevated. DU would have to perform at a Creighton or Wichita State level to be considered. Other sports such as soccer and volleyball would fit perfectly in the BE. And, DU’s facilities are more than adequate. Size, fit and culture (private not Catholic ) would be a fit according to several people I talked to. But B-ball – not so much.

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    1. The big one is the student union rebuild, which may be a bit of a traffic snarler on Evans. The other projects a new dorm on the west side of campus and a new four story alumni/career center to replace the Leo Block Building across from the Ritchie Center, will be somewhat less intrusive.

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