Fourteen years later, the University of Texas-Pan American finally got the call it’s been hoping to receive.
After sources told The Monitor that the Broncs received an all-sports invite to join the Western Athletic Conference starting in 2013-14, the school confirmed the news Wednesday night, saying that it did indeed get an invitation.
“We received an invite to the WAC conference early last week,” UTPA Athletic Director Chris King said. “We’re waiting to hear from the UT system to hear when we’ll be able to provide a presentation to the board of regents.”
That’s the next step for the Broncs, who have to go through the same process the University of Texas-Arlington and University of Texas-San Antonio did when they joined new conferences.
The Broncs, King said, submitted the invitation to the legal counsel last week. Usually, it takes about three to four weeks from the time of submission until the actual presentation (which could be in-person or via special conference) to the board occurs, King said.
Still, the mere invitation to join the WAC, and the automatic qualification it carries for its sports, is reason enough to celebrate for UTPA.
“It’s been a while,” King said of UTPA being in an AQ league. “The one thing that athletics was sorely lacking was conference affiliation.”
The Broncs were kicked out of the Sun Belt Conference in 1998 after being plagued by NCAA infractions. From then until 2008, they were independent. Since that point, they’ve been a member of the Great West Conference, which is more of a scheduling alliance than anything and does not have an AQ.
That, of course, is the type of thing the Broncs sorely have been missing — being able to compete for NCAA championships. Now, so long as the board OKs the move, UTPA would make the NCAA tournament should it win the WAC.
“(President Robert S. Nelsen) and I have been working toward that … putting things in place to make us attractive in a conference,” King said. “It’s a big thing for the university, but it’s one step at a time. We gotta go through the process, still.”
When contacted earlier in the day, before UTPA confirmed the news, WAC interim commissioner Jeff Hurd declined to comment. He did, however, confirm the NCAA rule stipulating that in order to retain an AQ status, a non-football conference (which is what the WAC will be) must have at least seven teams in it.
Currently, for 2013-14, the WAC will have seven teams, though one, the recently added Grand Canyon, will not count toward the total because it is transferring from Division II to Division I.
That leaves the WAC short, and that’s where UTPA comes in.
However, with Idaho set to leave the WAC after next season and with Grand Canyon (a for-profit school in Phoenix) handcuffed for its first four years as a Division I institution, it’s clear more moves are going to have to be made.
The WAC, which has been hit hard by the recent conference alignment, already added fellow GWC castoff Utah Valley to go with current members New Mexico State and Seattle and newcomer Cal State-Bakersfield.
The conference also has three core sports for men (basketball, baseball, soccer) and women (basketball, volleyball, soccer). The Broncs have three of those sports, but not soccer.
King wouldn’t go into further detail about those plans, but with all the work done over the past few years to get the school into a real conference and give the athletics program and chance at legitimacy, it’s highly unlikely that would hold them up.
“It’s a wait and see approach for us at this point,” King said.
Todd Orodenker covers UTPA Athletics for The Monitor. You can reach him at (956) 683-4431 or via email at email@example.com.
Other College News
UTPA women complete sweep of TAMCC
CORPUS CHRISTI – The University of Texas-Pan American Broncs women’s basketball team completed the season sweep of the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islanders for the second year in a row with a 49-45 victory Wednesday at American Bank Center.
The Broncs (3-5) are 6-2 against the Islanders since Denny Downing became coach in 2009-10. Joyea Marshall led the Broncs with 12 points and seven rebounds. KaeLynn Boyd finished with 11 points.
Ashley Darley led the Islanders (0-7) with 14 points, seven rebounds and four steals.
The Broncs shot 42.5 percent (17 for 40) while holding the Islanders to 24.6 percent (16 for 65) shooting. The Islanders got the extra possessions in part by hauling in 21 offensive rebounds, while the Broncs had eight.
It was a back-and-forth game throughout the first half, with the Islanders taking a 19-17 lead on a Jessica Jammer jumper with 3:25 remaining. The Broncs held the Islanders scoreless over the rest of the first half, forcing shot clock violations on the final three full possessions. In the meantime, Marshall and Jasmine Gordon hit baskets to give the Broncs a 21-19 lead.
The game remained tight in the second half, with the Broncs taking their largest lead at 44-37 on a Cassandra Moody bank shot with 2:18 to go.
The Broncs return to action at 2 p.m. Saturday when they visit SMU.
-- UTPA Services
UTPA baseball signs one to letter of intent
EDINBURG – University of Texas-Pan American baseball coach Manny Mantrana announced Wednesday the signing of infielder Michael Baca to a scholarship agreement for the 2013-14 academic year.
Baca played at the University of New Mexico (Mountain West Conference) last season, where he appeared in 17 games (four starts), hitting .207 (6 for 29) with one double, four RBIs and seven runs scored. His first collegiate hit was a pinch-hit double against Air Force on April 6.
Baca had his best game when he went 2 for 5 with two RBIs and two runs scored as the starting DH against Texas Tech on April 25. The Lobos were 3-1 when Baca started. Three of those starts came at third base. Baca is slated to play the 2013 season at Cisco Junior College.
“Michael is a great addition to our recruiting class,” Mantrana said. “He has all the tangible and intangible qualities that make up a great infielder and also swings the bat very well. He is a solid, all-around player that will help our program improve. We look forward to having Michael in our program.”
A 2011 graduate of Amarillo High, Baca earned District MVP and offensive player of the year honors as a senior after winning the Texas 5A batting title with a .603 batting average (73 for 121). He hit 22 doubles, 13 triples and one home run for a 1.041 slugging percentage. Baca drove in 40 runs and scored 58 times. He also earned a gold glove that season.
-- UTPA Services