By Art Garcia for UTAMavs.com
July 14, 2011
ARLINGTON, Tex. - UT Arlington president James D. Spaniolo summed up the move to the Western Athletic Conference best at Thursday afternoon's historic announcement.
"This is a happy day for UT Arlington," Spaniolo said before a raucous gathering of alumni, student-athletes, coaches and university officials at the Maverick Activity Center.
The University of Texas Board of Regents voted Thursday in Austin to approve UTA's departure from the Southland Conference and admittance to the WAC. The Mavericks' 14 current programs in men's and women's programs join the WAC officially on July 1, 2012.
WAC commissioner Karl Benson toured UTA's campus in late June, meeting with Spaniolo and athletic director Pete Carlon. The WAC's nine member schools voted unanimously to extend UTA an invitation earlier this month.
"It's something that happened a lot faster than any of us imagined," Benson said in front of a banner proclaiming, "A Whole New Ballgame."
"It's an understatement to say our student-athletes, our coaches, our staff and our fans are thrilled and excited to have this great opportunity and competitive challenge," Carlon said. "I want to thank the Board of Directors and presidents in the Western Athletic Conference for extending this invitation to UT Arlington. I'd also like to our appreciation to The University of Texas Board of Regents for their both their approval and support."
The Mavericks are leaving the SLC -- their home since 1963 and a league UTA helped found as a charter member-- for a better seat at the collegiate athletic table. The WAC is in its 50th season, making the league sixth oldest among the nation's 11 Division I-A conferences.
The WAC's success over the last decade has been well documented. The league has sent 35 teams to football bowl games since 2001, including three to BCS games. At least two men's basketball teams have reached the NCAA Tournament in 24 of the past 28 seasons. There have been two baseball national champions since 2003.
"We are honored to be a member and this is a tremendous opportunity for us," Spaniolo said, "a significant recognition of the growing national prominence of our university and athletic program. The move is also supportive of our strategic initiative to become to become a national research university. Tier I institutions are Tier I across the board, and that includes athletic teams and student-athletes who compete in the highest levels on the field, on the court and in the classroom.
"The Western Athletic Conference has a strong competitive profile, both in athletics and academics, which made moving to the WAC extremely attractive for us. As members of the WAC, our ability to recruit and retain outstanding student-athletes will be significantly enhanced."
The change in conference address coincides with the impending 20112 opening of the $78 million College Park Center, the 7,000-seat arena that will house the basketball and volleyball programs. The WAC's national visibility and history will raise the bar for all of UTA's programs.
"It allows up to recruit better athletes in state and nationally opens up some doors," men's basketball coach Scott Cross said.
Women's basketball coach Samantha Morrow added: "It's exciting. It means we're going to be more appealing to student-athletes. We're going to be playing Louisiana Tech -- what a great program -- and we're going to be flying in to all these great cities. Everybody knows where Denver is, where Seattle is. I just can't explain how excited I am."
The reconfigured WAC is also gaining a stronger foothold in Texas and this part of the country. Two of UTA's SLC rivals - UTSA and Texas State - are also making the jump to the WAC. Rounding out the 10-team conference alignment for 2012-13 are Louisiana Tech, New Mexico State, San Jose State, Utah State, Seattle, Denver and Idaho.
The WAC includes four of the top 20 media markets, seven of the top 50 and all 10 schools resides in the top 100.
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