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Utah Valley University announced that it has accepted an invitation to join the Western Athletic Conference. The Wolverines’ membership in the new-look WAC will take effect July 1, 2013, and UVU will begin athletic competition in the conference next fall at the start of the 2013-2014 season.
“[The] announcement is one more milestone for a UVU athletics program that continues to take giant steps forward,” said UVU President Matthew S. Holland. “UVU and our athletics program are being propelled by tremendous momentum, and I have no doubt that the energy connected to UVU Athletics will add an exciting new dynamic to the Western Athletic Conference. Our athletic profile matches up exceptionally well with the WAC, and we absolutely share the conference’s emphasis on and commitment to academic excellence. We are thrilled to accept the invitation to align with a conference with such a rich and storied tradition.”
Joining the WAC is the latest storyline for a UVU Athletics program that has matured at an accelerated rate in recent years. In 2009, UVU ended seven years of provisional status and was officially recognized as a full NCAA Division I member, becoming the first and likely only institution to leap into the D-I ranks directly from junior college status. In the years since, UVU Athletics has produced Olympic and professional athletes, defeated national powerhouses in multiple sports and added new and renovated facilities.
“This move recognizes the many years of effort that have gone into building UVU’s excellent athletics programs. Aligning with a nationally recognized conference partner like the WAC allows us to more fully reflect who we have become as an institution and athletics program,” said UVU Athletics Director Mike Jacobsen. “As we enter a new era for UVU Athletics, I am excited about the opportunities that await UVU and its student-athletes as we develop fruitful partnerships and athletic rivalries with regional sister institutions.”
“We are grateful for the opportunities we were afforded as a member of the Great West Conference. It has been a wonderful experience the past three years,” Jacobsen said.
The move positions UVU in a conference that is more geographically and regionally conducive to its situation. UVU is expected to realize and estimated travel savings of more than 32 percent. In addition, the WAC carries an automatic berth into NCAA tournaments. The Wolverines are expected to add men’s soccer as part of its migration to the WAC, which UVU hopes to be able to do, in part, with financial support from the local community.
The WAC is the sixth oldest among the nation’s 11 Division I-A conferences. Its history traces back to July 27, 1962, when the original six-team league of Arizona, Arizona State, Brigham Young, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming began competition. The WAC has experienced tremendous success over the years. Since 2000, a total of 43 football teams have been invited to bowl games, including more than half of its teams in 2008 with a record-tying five. The conference has sent teams to BCS bowl games three times since 2006. In men's basketball, the WAC has sent at least two teams to the NCAA Tournament in 24 of the past 29 seasons. In baseball, the WAC has boasted two national champions since 2003.