UTPA Celebrates Entry To WAC, End Of 15 Years In Exile

The University of Texas-Pan American (UTPA) Department of Intercollegiate Athletics announced in a press conference on Wednesday that they have formally accepted an invitation to join the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) in all sports effective July 1, 2013.

Joining the WAC is a wonderful opportunity for UT-Pan American, UTPA President Dr. Robert S. Nelsen said. Our students will finally have a voice in NCAA decisions. They will also have an opportunity to compete for national championships. Our student-athletes and our coaches have worked very hard to get us to this point in time. I am very proud of them.

The WAC membership for 2013-14 is currently scheduled to include UTPA, California State University Bakersfield, Chicago State University, the University of Idaho, New Mexico State University, Seattle University and Utah Valley University, as well as associate members Sacramento State University in baseball, the University of Northern Colorado in baseball and women TMs swimming and diving, the University of North Dakota in women TMs swimming and diving, and Northern Arizona University in women TMs swimming and diving.

The WAC sponsors all 14 of the Broncs TM current sports, including men TMs and women TMs cross country, women TMs volleyball, men TMs and women TMs basketball, baseball, men TMs and women TMs tennis, men TMs and women TMs golf, and men TMs and women TMs indoor and outdoor track and field.

All of the Broncs teams have been competing in the Great West Conference since the 2009-10 season, with the exception of men TMs tennis, which is a member of the Southland Conference, and men TMs golf, which is part of the America Sky Conference.

For the first time since the 1997-98 season, when the Broncs were members of the Sun Belt Conference, UTPA women TMs volleyball, men TMs and women TMs basketball, baseball, women TMs tennis and women TMs golf will be able to compete for an automatic qualifier into the NCAA Tournament. Men TMs tennis and men TMs golf are currently able to compete for automatic qualifiers in the Southland Conference and America Sky Conference, respectively. Cross country and track and field qualifiers are based on times and distances, not conference championships.

This is a defining moment in the history of UTPA Athletics, and it has been a long time coming. We have been working hard for the last few years to transform this department into one that is no longer content with simply being at the Division I level, but instead has a strong group of student-athletes and coaches who can help us compete for championships while excelling in the classroom and the community. This is another step in that transformation process, UTPA Director of Athletics Chris King said. Aligning ourselves with a nationally recognized and well-branded conference such as the WAC will allow us to gain national exposure for both UTPA and the entire Rio Grande Valley.

All eight full-time members are in the top 126 media markets in the nation, with seven in the top 91 and four in the top 33. In 2012, the Rio Grande Valley was the fastest growing of those markets, adding 5,810 TV homes, an increase of 1.6 percent. Nielsen, a company that measures media audiences, including television, is currently projecting the Rio Grande Valley to move up one spot in 2013, to market No. 86, and add another 2,340 TV homes, an increase of 0.6 percent.

Additionally, Nielsen projects the Rio Grande Valley to be the 10th largest Hispanic television market in the country, at 2.219 percent of the total, giving the WAC four of the top 15 Hispanic markets, along with No. 6 Chicago (Chicago State), No. 9 Phoenix (Grand Canyon), and No. 15 El Paso/Las Cruces (New Mexico State).

The addition of The University of Texas-Pan American adds another important piece to the rebuilding of the Western Athletic Conference, WAC Interim Commissioner Jeff Hurd said. UTPA brings a program with 60 years of history and success, and we look forward to the Broncs competing at a high level in the WAC.

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