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WAC Offseason Recap

October 8, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments

WAC Offseason Recap

by Phil Dailey

The State of the WAC

The Western Athletic Conference as we know it might becoming to a crossroad yet again in the next year or so. For now, Tulsa, Rice and Southern Methodist will remain a fixture in the conference.

For those of you out there who have been unaware of the off-season chatter in the WAC, Conference USA is in the middle of re-aligning its position as a perennial basketball power conference. With this distinction comes change of course, and that’s why C-USA is courting three of the WAC’s better hoop schools.

Some sources claim that Tulsa is already counting on the move. Left in the dark, however, is Texas Christian – might they make the move back to the WAC?

Who really knows what’s going on at this point with the WAC, C-USA and the Atlantic-10, but much of the fallout or blame for this mess could be directly linked to the ACC for taking Miami (FL) and Virginia Tech away from the Big East Conference. Now the Big East in search of filling their void.

New TV contract

On a positive note for the WAC, it signed a three-year agreement with SportsWest to broadcast football and basketball games. The contract includes 10 basketball games and coverage of quarterfinals and semifinals of the WAC Tournament this seasons.

SportsWest covers Mountain West games as well.

Not another Bracket Buster

Yes, it’s true. After what ESPN called success last year, Bracket Buster Saturday will make another appearance next February. Five of the 23 games will be telecast on ESPN or ESPN2. Last season there were only 18 teams involved, but this year there will be 46 squads competing.

As for the WAC, Fresno State, Nevada, Rice and Tulsa will host home games for the event while Hawaii will travel to its site. Of the 46-team field, 12 made a trip to the NCAA Tournament last season earning a 5-12 record.

Fresno State out for four years

A statement released by the NCAA on Sept.10 summed up Fresno State’s violations. These included academic fraud, recruiting, eligibility, financial aid, extra benefits, amateurism, coaching limitations and practice season legislation. The committee also said it found lack of institutional control. Really?

Leading the way for these violations was the former man in charge, Jerry Tarkanian and his staff that tenured the Fresno State basketball program.

The probation for the Bulldogs is retroactive of course, starting last December and will run four years from then. The university will also lose three grants-in-aids for the 2004-05 and 2005-06 academic years. Do you think Ray Lopes wishes he had taken another job at this point?

If things could get any worse for the Bulldogs they certainly did as coach Lopes suspended sophomore guard Terry Pettis for an alleged off-campus incident on Wednesday Sept. 24. Pettis, however, has not been formerly charged with anything by authorities.

New coaches make their debut

There are no new head coaches taking over this season, but there are a few assistant coaches making debuts this upcoming season.

Louisiana Tech added Ryan Cross to its staff this year. Cross, a former head coach at Chipola (Fla.) Junior College, will help head coach Keith Richard keep up with recruiting in the Florida Panhandle.

Texas – El Paso is once more making moves in the coaching ranks as well. After a season of turmoil last year, the Miners seem to finally have stability at the head job with Billy Gillispie. With that said, Gillispie has added two new assistant coaches to the bench in Doc Sadler and Alvin Brooks.

Sadler was previously an assistant coach at Houston, Chicago State, Lamar and Arizona State to name a few. He has been to six NCAA Tournaments in all.

Brooks comes to UTEP by way of North Texas were he was part of the staff that compiled a 15-14 record, the Mean Green’s first winning season in six years.

Nevada gets an invite to tourney

Although they may be the front-runners for the WAC crown to some prognosticators come next March, as of now, the Wolf Pack will have to settle for the NIT Preseason Tournament to show off this years highly respected team.

The Wolf Pack has been invited to play host to the Catamounts of the University of Vermont on Nov. 17 at the Lawlor Events Center in Reno, Nev.

Other teams competing in the event include: Georgia State, Utah, Minnesota, Texas Tech and UConn.

Hawai’i losses one, but gains another

One of the best players in the WAC last year, Carl English, made the decision to forgo his senior campaign to try his luck in the NBA Draft. Well, the draft wasn’t so kind to Mr. English, but he did get picked up by the Indian Pacers and has signed a contract, but no one knows what for because the information was not released.

So the Warriors say goodbye to their seventh leading scoring in school history, but welcome another talent in Julian Sensley. Sensley spent last season with Los Angeles City College where he led the Cubs to California Community College Championship. Sensley also earned All-State honors for his effort.

Sensley has three years of eligibility remaining and is a native of Oahu, where he was a star at Kalaheo High School.

Boise State does cleans some house

Greg Graham enters his second year with the Broncos and this year did a little re-arranging on former head coach Rod Jenson’s recruits.

This year the Broncos will be without two of their players who saw action last year. Solomon Wyatt decided to transfer due to a lack of playing time and Kenny Gainous and Mark Pratt have taken one-year leave from the team.

Gainous saw limited time as a starter and a bench player and will simply sit out the season while Pratt has transferred to a junior college to get some experience.

Rice gets new seats

We not quite sure if this is a good thing or not, but the only news to report on from Owls’ camp this off season was that Autry Court got new retractable theatre-style seating. Hooray!

Now that the court is ready Rice can’t wait to lace ’em up and try to win the WAC Title and make an appearance in the NCAA Tournament, a goal they may have a shot at for the first time in a while in Houston.

The Owls last made the “big dance” in 1970.

San Jose State says goodbye to freshman star

If the situation could get any worse for Phil Johnson and his Spartans, it did this past summer. San Jose State’s second leading scorer last year, Antonio Lawrence, made an immediate impact in the WAC earning a spot on the WAC’s All-Newcomer Team as a freshman.

The early success got to Lawrence’s head as he decided to see how the NBA Draft would treat him. Well, much like Carl English of Hawai’i, it didn’t go so good for Lawrence. Not only did he go undrafted he also hired an agent, so out the window went his eligibility. Rumor has it Lawrence tried making the leap to the NBA to help out a family member who needs medical assistance.

Tulsa adds baseball player?

That’s right, the Golden Hurricane added Brian Cardwell to their roster for the 2004-04 season. Cardwell comes to Tulsa by way of the Toronto Blue Jays where he spent the last four years trying to make it to “the show.”

The biggest factor for signing Cardwell was his size. As a 6-foot-10, 215 pounder, the size will be a nice to have.

Cardwell won 10 games with a 5.34 ERA as a pro baseball player.

Updated October 14th, 2003


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