Sac State to join WAC in baseball | NevadaAppeal.com

Sac State to join WAC in baseball

RENO – Sacramento State accepted an affiliate membership to join the Western Athletic Conference for baseball starting in the 2006 season.

The Hornets, coached by John Smith, are starting their third season as an independent after leaving the Big West in 2002. They were previously an affiliate member of the WAC from 1993-96.

“Sacramento State will be a good fit with the baseball teams in the WAC,” WAC commissioner Karl Benson said in a prepared statement. “We expect they will match up well competitively and geographically.

“This is an exciting opportunity for our baseball program,” Sac State coach John Smith said. “It shows our interest in elevating our entire athletic program to a position of regional and national prominence. We appreciate the trust the WAC has in our program and look forward to great competition.”

The move gives the WAC seven teams in 2006 – Nevada, Sac State, New Mexico State, San Jose State, Louisiana Tech, Fresno State and Hawai’i. SMU, Tulsa, Rice and UTEP are leaving the conference at the end of the school year.

The WAC will also have a conference tournament starting in 2006. Having a seven-team league also changes the scheduling. No longer will each team play home and away against the rest of the conference.

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Gary Powers, Nevada’s veteran head coach, likes the move for two reasons.

“I’m excited about having a conference tournament,” he said. “It will keep everybody active. You keep the intensity in the conference race from start to finish.”

It will be great that six teams (out of 7) will get to experience a post-season tournament.

“It will also help from a travel standpoint (not playing everybody every year). It’s also one more conference opponent within driving distance (Fresno State and San Jose State are the others). Bringing Sac State in is a positive thing.”

Powers said he believed that the host for the WAC baseball tournament would be decided on a bid basis.

Of the schools involved, Fresno State’s Beiden Field is one of the top stadiums on the West Coast.

Powers also said that adding a seventh team is good in case any school leaves to go to another conference.

You need a minimum of six teams to get an automatic berth in the NCAA tournament. It’s been rumored that Louisiana Tech could leave for Conference USA if that conference loses any teams.

The Nevada coach also is concerned about the future of baseball in the WAC. Of the three new full-time members being added, only New Mexico State plays baseball. Neither Idaho or Utah State have baseball programs.

“That’s something that bothers me,” Powers said. “The conference has been looking at total programs and not just football when they make decisions on adding or dropping teams. Schools should have to sponsor all sports that the conference feels are valuable to them.

“This conference has gotten more national recognition for sports other than football. The conference is having more success at the national level than it does with football. All sports should be taken into consideration when these moves are made.”

It’s easy to see where Powers is coming from. There aren’t many other teams out there geography-wise that would be a good fit for the WAC. Benson said the University of Denver has shown some interest in joining the WAC, and there are rumors, which Benson has denied, that Gonzaga from the West Coast Athletic Conference might be interested in moving.

Contact Darrell Moody at dmoody@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1281.