The bony hand of the conference realignment reaper has once again reached into the Kansas City area. This time however, the news should be beneficial to the school involved and the area as a whole. So mark July 1st, 2013 on your calendar because that’s the day the University Missouri-Kansas City will leave the Summit League behind and become a full member of the Western Athletic Conference.
The WAC is far from the conference most of us remember from years past and it will continue to evolve as seven current members are set to leave the conference at the end of the academic year. The Roos are effectively swapping places with Denver, who is leaving the WAC for the Summit League. Interestingly enough Denver and UMKC were set to be conference travel partners once Denver joined. The other six WAC institutions moving on to “greener pastures” or better fits are:
- Louisiana Tech (Conference USA)
- San Jose State (Mountain West)
- Texas State (Sun Belt)
- University of Texas at Arlington (Sun Belt)
- University of Texas at San Antonio (Conference USA)
- Utah State (Mountain West)
In addition to those departures this year, Idaho will be shifting to the Big Sky in 2014 (their football program will be going independent in the FBS). While the Roos will get to know the Vandals for just a year, they hope to form longer term bonds with WAC holdovers New Mexico State and Seattle. Heading to the conference along with UMKC will be current D-I Independent California State-Bakersfield and Grand Canyon University which is moving up from Division II. Chicago State, University of Texas at Pan American and Utah Valley University are all leaving the Great West Conference to join the WAC at the same time as our Roos.
UMKC will become a full member of the conference with all 16 of its sports competing in the conference. An official press conference is set to take place on Thursday, February 14th on campus. Representatives from both the school and WAC are expected to offer more details about the move and the future of the conference at that time.
While the move may seem like a lateral one on the surface, this does open the door for the school to officially rebrand itself as the University of Kansas City, a name they held from the early 30s until 1963 when it became a part of the University of Missouri system. The topic of changing the university’s name picked up a lot of steam last summer and while they elected to remain UMKC at that time, the door was certainly left open.
As a Kansas City resident the name change is long overdue, but aside from that, the move gets UMKC into a situation that figures to be more viable, if not more stable than staying in the Summit League would afford. It may not seem like that on the surface as the WAC has clearly been in a state of flux for a while. However, there are many more moves percolating beneath the surface and UMKC’s decision makers surely have some idea of the direction things are going to, or are likely to, take from here on out. After all the announcement that they would be leaving the Summit League for the WAC caught many by surprise.
More dominos are set to fall and at this point all eyes turn to the “Catholic 7″ that split off from the Big East and what appears to be one of their prime targets, the Missouri Valley’s Creighton Blue Jays. If Creighton departs for an all-Catholic/private school league and Evansville moves to the Horizon as expected, current Summit League members South Dakota State and North Dakota State figure to be at the top of the MVC’s replacement list. Losing those two schools might be too much for the Summit League to remain viable and the conference could fracture and be pulled apart.