- Andy Katz, ESPN Senior Writer
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Fresno State and Nevada will remain in the Western Athletic Conference in all sports until July 2012 before leaving for the Mountain West and, in exchange, will pay a significantly lower exit fee after reaching an agreement with the WAC this week.
The remaining six WAC schools held a conference call Wednesday night to approve the agreement. In making the announcement Thursday, the WAC said Fresno State and Nevada each will pay a $900,000 departure fee, much lower than the anticipated $5 million it had hoped to collect from the two for breaking an agreement that they would stay in the conference for five years.
This means the WAC will have eight members in football and men's and women's basketball and other sports in 2011-12 after Boise State leaves for the MWC. The membership would include Fresno State, Louisiana Tech, New Mexico State, San Jose State, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada and Utah State.
The 2012-13 WAC membership would include Louisiana Tech, New Mexico State, San Jose State, Hawaii, Idaho and Utah State pending new arrivals.
The MWC will have eight members in 2011-12 after Utah leaves for the Pac-12, BYU goes independent/WCC and Boise State joins the league. The 2011-12 MWC membership would include Air Force, Boise State, Colorado State, New Mexico, San Diego State, TCU, UNLV and Wyoming.
"The Mountain West Conference looks forward to the addition of Boise State University next summer and subsequently Fresno State and Nevada the next year. Plans for future scheduling will now begin in earnest," Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson said Thursday.
The MWC would then have 10 members in 2012-13: Air Force, Boise State, Colorado State, Fresno State, New Mexico, Nevada, San Diego State, TCU, UNLV and Wyoming.
The WAC said it couldn't afford to lose Fresno State and Nevada next season because it would leave holes on the remaining six schools' football schedules. The WAC stood firm that neither Fresno State nor Nevada informed the conference of an intent to leave prior to the July 1 deadline set forth in the WAC bylaws.
Boise State, which is playing its final season in the WAC, had already accepted an invitation to join the Mountain West and notified the WAC prior to the deadline.
On a conference call with reporters Thursday, WAC commissioner Karl Benson said it was more important to the conference's remaining six schools to keep Fresno State and Nevada for the next two seasons as to not disrupt football scheduling and any kind of NCAA automatic qualification.
Benson said the $900,000 fee was a negotiated final number after several weeks of mediation. Benson said there will be five payments of $180,000 paid to the WAC by Fresno State and Nevada over five years.
As an example, Benson said, Boise State will forfeit $750,000 of its end-of-year revenue before it goes to the Mountain West. Fresno State and Nevada also will have to forfeit its end-of-year revenue on June 30, 2012 in addition to the payment it must make.
Benson said an announcement regarding expansion will come within the next 30 days.
The WAC agreement came as the conference negotiated with BYU for membership in all sports except football early last month. But before BYU made a decision, the MWC trumped the move and invited Fresno State and Nevada, which accepted. BYU still declared its independence in football for next season and then accepted an invitation to join the WCC in all other sports for the 2011-12 season.
The WAC will pursue an eight-team football membership and possibly a 10-team overall membership for 2012-13. Montana, Texas State, Texas-San Antonio and non-football playing Denver and Seattle are among candidates to join the conference.
According to sources, if Montana decides to go from FCS to FBS then the Grizzlies would be in the WAC and either both Texas schools or just one in all sports. The league would then look to either Denver or Seattle to join in all sports but football. If Montana decides to stay put then the most likely scenario is both Texas schools joining the WAC along with Denver and Seattle.
Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.