Boasting schools such as Saint Mary’s and Gonzaga, the West Coast Conference has always been known for its small schools with top-notch sports programs. In a well-known Division 1 conference, alterations and adjustments are often made that keep anticipation at the highest level, and in the upcoming 2013-14 season, the introduction of new teams and new sports should have USF students and other fans excited for the future.
One of the most notable changes that will begin next season is the installation of a new WCC Basketball Tournament format. In this previous system, a double-bye was given to the top two teams in the conference in the tournament semifinals. This year, with the addition of University of the Pacific, the WCC becomes a 10-team basketball league, meaning that the double-bye will no longer be necessary. Although this may be seen as a disadvantage for the conference’s top teams, it will certainly increase competition and ensure that the WCC champion will have to earn their trophy and fight for their place in the NCAA Tournament.
With the 10-team basketball league in place and the tournament format established, there have still been rumors that a shakeup may occur and that current WCC teams could end up leaving the conference. Due to their consistent basketball dominance and the national attention that they receive, Gonzaga seems to be the school most likely to part with the WCC. The Bulldogs currently have one of the top basketball teams in the country, and in December ESPN’s Andy Katz reported that the Zags “would love to” leave the WCC and join a more nationally recognized conference. As the rumors continue to swirl, the Big East has been brought up as the front-runner to potentially welcome Gonzaga next season. For the 2014-15 season, seven Big East schools (Georgetown, St. John’s, Villanova, DePaul, Marquette, Seton Hall and Providence) will be leaving the conference due to their lack of a major football program. These seven teams are hoping to break from the Big East by 2014 and establish a more basketball-based conference, and their departure opens the door for many solid small-market schools looking to gain national recognition and appreciation. Along with schools such as Creighton, Butler St. Louis, Dayton, St. Joseph’s, and Richmond, both Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s have been mentioned as candidates to join the Big East. However, Gonzaga coach Mark Few has remained relatively neutral on his stance towards the issue.
“We’re happy with where we’re at but we’re going to continue to monitor everything that’s going on,” Few told SWX Right Now, a television station based in eastern Washington. “We built ourselves into a national program and we’re going to do what’s best for Gonzaga through all this. Because of our success we put ourselves in a position to where we’re attractive to other entities out there. But again, we’re going to do what’s best for Gonzaga.”
In the midst of all the possible changes for basketball teams in the WCC, a new sport is being introduced into the conference. Voted in by WCC presidents, softball will be added as a sport for the 2013-14 season, as the conference has recruited enough teams to form a complete league. Along with current WCC teams at Loyola Marymount, Saint Mary’s, Santa Clara and San Diego, Pacific, Brigham Young, Cal State Bakersfield and Utah Valley State will be joining the WCC for softball.
Around the conference, coaches and teams are all excited to play a role in the establishment of softball as an official sport. Also, with the talent that some of the teams have, the 2013-14 softball season promises to be an eventful one.
“I’m glad the WCC has made a commitment to the sport, because they have programs that have a ton of potential,” Pacific coach Brian Kolze told Jagdip Dhillon of Recordnet.com. “It looks like it will be a very good conference because this year’s RPI (Ratings Percentage Index) numbers paralleled the Big West.”
With all of these new teams and sports becoming a part of the WCC, USF athletes and students have a lot to look forward to in upcoming years. Although games against Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s are always entertaining, Dons sports teams would certainly enjoy not having to face the two powerhouses multiple times each season. And with Pacific entering the WCC, fans will surely see many fierce, competitive battles between the two Bay-Area schools in the near future. To top it off, maybe the next step for the Dons is developing a softball team to join the new league. Either way, the changes taking place in the WCC ensure that the upcoming seasons will be exciting one for USF athletics, as well as for other programs throughout the conference.