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Sports Fodder: Movin’ on up for the Pack

by Joe Santoro

Sports fodder for a Friday morning . . .

The sun was shining brighter, the air smelled sweeter, the morning coffee never tasted so good as it did Thursday morning. You didn’t dream it, Nevada Wolf Pack fans. It is actually going to happen. The Wolf Pack athletic department is finally back where it belongs — in the same conference as UNLV. Give athletic director Cary Groth, president Milt Glick and everyone else dressed in silver and blue all the credit in the world for getting the Wolf Pack into the Mountain West Conference on Wednesday. Wolf Pack sports has finally emerged from the stale, season ticket destroying coma state that has been the Western Athletic Conference the past decade.

. . .

Yes, the Mountain West (especially if BYU leaves, as expected) won’t be the same Mountain West that broke away from the old 16-team WAC in 1998. It won’t even be the same Mountain West that exists right now. But make no mistake, the Mountain West, even without Utah and BYU, is the big leagues compared to what is left of a WAC without Fresno State and Boise State. Wouldn’t you trade Idaho, Utah State, New Mexico State, Louisiana Tech, Hawaii and San Jose State for Air Force, Boise, Fresno, UNLV, Wyoming, TCU, San Diego State, New Mexico and Colorado State? I’d even toss in a school to be named later.

. . .

Anything that gets the Wolf Pack away from Louisiana Tech and New Mexico State is a good thing. Nothing against those fine institutions and the beautiful vacation destinations of Las Cruces, N.M., and Ruston, La., but it was impossible for northern Nevada to develop anything remotely resembling a rivalry with those schools over the past decade. Chris Ault could have coached both those schools and Pack fans still would have let out a collective yawn when the Aggies and Bulldogs came to town. And having Hawaii in your conference is a nightmare for everyone but the equipment manager who gets a free vacation on the beach. The games are in the middle of the night (killing fan interest), the cost is ridiculous in this era of financial chaos and the trip kills your team physically for a few days afterward.

. . .

Wolf Pack sports is suddenly exciting again. It is the hot ticket in town. Forget Hot August Nights. We now have Hot Fall, Winter and Spring Days, Nights and Weekends. The UNLV game in all sports finally means something more than keeping a cannon blue and tucked away in Cashell Fieldhouse. Groth and Glick have pumped new blood and life into Wolf Pack sports. Let’s face it, Pack sports was putting everyone to sleep the past few years. The Pack couldn’t give away its tickets for free with a free buffet. And when Boise State announced in June it was leaving the WAC, Wolf Pack sports was suddenly moved to intensive care. Short of getting Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus to sing at halftime of every football and basketball home game to attract the under-21 crowd, Groth and Glick couldn’t have done more to get this community excited about buying Pack tickets.

. . .

WAC football, though, is in trouble. They have just six football schools moving forward and none of them (except for Hawaii one magical season) has ever showed up on the BCS radar. What does the WAC do to save its football schools? Adding two or three I-AA schools seems to be the easiest solution for now. But nobody would be shocked to see WAC football go the way of Big West football in a few years.

Joe Santoro is a freelance writer for the Sierra Nevada Media Group.