CSUB was ready to join the WAC as a I-AAA member yesterday.
CSUB moved up from the Division II California Collegiate Athletic Association in 2006 and has been sitting out there for years waiting for the Big West to invite them.
For those of you unfamiliar with these obscure conferences, the I-AAA Big West is evenly comprised of schools from the very prestigious University of California System and from the the much-less prestigious California State University System. Divison II CCAA is comprised of 11 CSU schools and one UC school.
In prestige terms, CSUB is basically a middle-of-the-pack CSU school.
CSUB's inability to get a Big West invite has to send a clear message to CSU schools in the CCAA. There's no home waiting for them in the Division I level should any of those schools decide to upgrade their athletic program to help promote their school brand.
This suggests an opportunity for the WAC.
There's an argument to be made that it's time to get in bed with the Cal State system schools. There's also an argument that Fresno State, San Diego State, Sacramento State and San Jose State all recently snubbed the WAC. It may be time to write off the Cal State system—if not California itself.
CSUB would love to be the start of an affiliation between the WAC and the next group of schools in the Cal State system.
CSUB can draw respectable basketball crowds to their arena and have a good basketball tradition at the D-II level.
Additionally, they play men's soccer. If the WAC cannot secure enough football teams, they need replacement men's sports. Men's soccer is one of the easier sports for the WAC to hit the minimum number of teams.
And starting up FBS football, while a huge longshot, is a possibility.
Starting up football at public schools seems very unlikely in California's economy. That said, CSUB has not had any luck attracting a conference and there is a WAC-sized (20,000-seat) stadium—Memorial Stadium—with exceptional bones in the city.
It is a 20-mile drive across the city from campus.
In a bigger city that would be a huge issue, but in a city the size of Bakersfield, an FBS team would be pulling from the whole city population anyway, so where they could play in the city is not as big of an issue as it would be in other cities.
Memorial Stadium is located on the campus of Bakersfield College—a local JUCO.
The seating is well-placed, and all seats are aluminum benches with backs or bucket seats. Those are certainly better conditions than a lot of FBS schools have endured over the last two decades.
The stadium would need to be fitted with some cheaper luxury boxes to be an acceptable short-term home, but the bones are definitely there.
Hurdles and hindrances
There's no good reason to travel to a small Californian city to play a I-AAA member without a travel partner in a huge California market.
There does seem to be some regular competition for public sports dollars in Bakersfield in basketball—CSUB's only revenue sport—so there is a question of what value, if any, CSUB offers the WAC.
Additionally, adding football at a California public school is a hard sell today. The state has legal hurdles that prevent their government from collecting the required taxes to properly fund their schools.
The recession has brought that point home with force.
It's hard to see a California public school adding football while cutting teachers.
Academics are a problem too.
Most of the California State schools—due to the mission of that system—are classified as "regional universities" in the U.S. News University rankings. That is less prestigious than the "national university" designation under which almost all FBS playing schools are classified.
"National universities" offer a wide breadth of master and doctoral degrees, and as such, are generally considered a more prestigious class.
A school can be highly ranked in a region under that "lesser" designation and can be seen as more of a peer to the national universities—Cal Poly is a good example of this—but most of the CSU schools are not highly ranked regional universities.
CSUB is no exception.
CSUB is ranked 88th in the Western "regional universities" category. That's lower than Boise State. It seems likely that will make it tough to earn the votes to get in.
CSUB is not a school that's going to make the WAC more attractive to any current Division I schools in California or anywhere else.
They don't bring a sizeable DMA.
All adding them alone in California as a full member would do is stretch out the WAC travel footprint, increasing costs and discouraging Central and Eastern candidates.
Quality of candidate (out of five stars
One star with football. No stars to half-a-star without football
It makes some sense for the WAC to consider the idea of becoming a I-AAA home for CSUB and at least one of the CSU's larger DII schools as long as that other school is located in a top designated market area.
The WAC could trade the Cal State system some invitations in exchange for a policy of aggressive upgrading by larger D-II Cal State schools in the near future.
The cost extracted for the WAC saving CSUB should be a second large CSU school from the CCAA joining them as I-AAA members and CSUB's travel partner in the WAC.
The payoff for the CSU systems could be a rubber stamp invitation for any approved CSU school with an enrollment over 17,000 (besides Sacramento State) to join the WAC as an I-AAA member at any point.
Playing as a Division I-AAA (a.k.a. non-football member in Division I) is a much cheaper path to Division I and is very manageable by any public school with an enrollment over 15,000.
If the CSU schools pass on that, a sensible alternative option would be to offer CSUB alone full membership—if they commit a notable amount of money now towards playing FBS football.
Shy of that, it seems the most sensible move would be to only offer CSUB a carrot encouraging a stronger athletic commitment—an associate membership in men's basketball and any other sport the WAC may need for their total sports counts.
Given the travel, there is no sensible reason whatsoever to offer CSUB a full membership with no other California State schools joining them in the WAC.
Source : http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1136302-45-mostly-western-darkhorse-schools-who-could-help-save-the-wac