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Collegiate Athletic Conferences

The Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) is an athletic conference that competes in the NCAA's Division III. The nine teams in the conference are all located in the states of Michigan and Indiana. The Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association was established on March 24, 1888, making it the oldest college athletic conference in the United States. The conference has made some drastic changes involving the types of sports that the conference competes in. The number of sports with competition is 18 (9 Men and 9 Women sports). These sports include cross country, football, golf, basketball, tennis, swimming, baseball, volleyball, softball track and field and soccer. Some past sports that are no longer in competition include bicycle racing, Indian club juggling, wrestling, archery, and field hockey.

The Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association (SIAA) was one of the first collegiate athletic conferences in the United States. Twenty-seven of the current Division I FBS (formerly Division I-A) football programs were members of this conference at some point, as were at least 19 other schools. Every member of the current Southeastern Conference except Arkansas, plus future SEC member Texas A&M, and six of the 12 current members of the Atlantic Coast Conference formerly held membership in the SIAA. The University of Texas, now of the Big 12 Conference (and previously of the now defunct Southwest Conference), was also an early member. The SIAA was founded on December 21, 1894, by Dr. William Dudley, a chemistry professor at Vanderbilt. The original members were Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Sewanee, and Vanderbilt. Clemson, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi State, Tennessee, Tulane, and Texas, joined the following year in 1896. The conference was originally formed to standardize player eligibility rules and host an annual track meet and basketball tournament.

Defunct NCAA conferences

American South Conference
absorbed by Sun Belt Conference
Atlantic Women's Colleges Conference
disbanded
Big Eight Conference
previously known as Big Six and Big Seven, joined with four former Southwest Conference schools to create the Big 12 Conference
Border Conference
members split between the newly-formed WAC and independent status
Dixie Conference
the name of three collegiate athletic leagues. The first operated from 1930 until the United States' entry into World War II in 1942. The second conference to use the name existed from 1948 to 1954. The third was the original name of the current USA South Athletic Conference. Operated before the NCAA split into divisions in 1955.
East Coast Conference
absorbed by Mid-Continent Conference
Great Midwest Conference
merged with Metro Conference to form Conference USA
Great Western Lacrosse League
members joined the ECAC Lacrosse League
Gulf Coast Conference
disbanded
Interstate Intercollegiate Athletic Conference
previously known as Illinois Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, disbanded
Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the Northwest
disbanded, precursor to the Big Ten Conference. Operated before the NCAA split into divisions in 1955.
Lake Michigan Conference
merged with the Northern Illinois-Iowa Conference to form the Northern Athletics Conference
Metro Conference
merged with Great Midwest Conference to form Conference USA
Mountain States Conference aka (Skyline Conference)
disbanded, members split between the newly-formed WAC and independent status
New England Conference
Disbanded; all members joined with other schools to form the Yankee Conference under a new charter. Effectively the earliest ancestor of today's Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) football conference. Operated before the NCAA split into divisions in 1955.
North Central Conference
disbanded
Northern California Athletic Conference
Football-only conference, dissolved when most members decided to drop football
Northern Illinois-Iowa Conference
merged with the Lake Michigan Conference to form the Northern Athletics Conference
Pacific Coast Conference
forerunner to Pac-12, disbanded due to scandal and infighting
Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association
disbanded with the onset of World War II. Operated before the NCAA split into divisions in 1955.
Southwest Conference
disbanded, members split into the Big 12, WAC, and C-USA
Yankee Conference
Football-only conference from 1975 until its absorption by the Atlantic 10 Conference in 1997. Also an effective ancestor of today's CAA football conference.

Defunct NAIA conferences

South East Atlantic Conference
football only, members became NAIA football independents
Sunrise Athletic Conference
founded when both the Maine Athletic Conference and the Mayflower Conference disbanded in the spring of 2002. Both of these conferences were NAIA conferences of long standing.
Eastern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference
Barber-Scotia lost its accreditation and can no longer field athletics teams, while former members Benedict and Claflin moved up to the NCAA's Division II. The remaining members currently compete as NAIA independents.
The Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference was a conference with quite a colorful history. For those of us who grew up with it, it’s hard to believe it is gone.

What became the AIC was formed in 1928. The league disbanded in the spring of 1995. Most of the state’s four-year colleges and universities were members of the AIC at one time or another during its existence.

During most of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, the AIC consisted of five state schools and five private schools.

The state schools that were members of the conference were Arkansas Tech University at Russellville, the University of Central Arkansas at Conway, the University of Arkansas at Monticello, Henderson State University at Arkadelphia and Southern Arkansas University at Magnolia.

The private schools that were AIC members were the University of the Ozarks at Clarksville, Harding University at Searcy, Hendrix College at Conway, Ouachita Baptist University at Arkadelphia and Lyon College at Batesville.

Most of those schools had name changes during that period.

Lyon (Arkansas College at the time), Hendrix and Ozarks had dropped football by the mid-1960s but continued to compete in the AIC in other sports.

The AIC was affiliated nationally with the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, which was headquartered at Kansas City.

The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff was a member of the AIC from 1970-72 and 1983-87.

By the early 1990s, many of the NAIA schools across the country that played football were moving to NCAA Division II. UCA, which at the time had a much larger enrollment than the other AIC members, decided to make the move to NCAA Division II beginning with the 1993-94 school year. Henderson’s board of trustees also voted to move in the fall of 1993 into NCAA Division II. UCA and Henderson joined the Gulf South Conference, which also had member institutions in Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia.

The defections of UCA and Henderson left the AIC with just five football-playing schools — UAM, SAU, Arkansas Tech, Ouachita and Harding.

UAM, SAU and Arkansas Tech were admitted to the Gulf South Conference beginning with the 1995-96 school year. The Gulf South refused to admit Ouachita and Harding, the only two private colleges playing football in Arkansas at the time. Ouachita and Harding wound up in the Lone Star Conference, which also had member institutions in Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico.

Harding and Ouachita were admitted to the Gulf South Conference beginning with the 2000-01 school year.

UCA, meanwhile, left the Gulf South Conference to move into NCAA Division I as enrollment continued to soar, becoming a Southland Conference member in 2006.

Beginning with the 2011-12 school year, six former AIC members — Henderson, UAM, SAU, Ouachita, Harding and Arkansas Tech — became charter members of the new NCAA Division II Great American Conference. Several former members of the Oklahoma Intercollegiate Conference also are affiliated with the Great American Conference, which is headquartered at Russellville.

The AIC was organized in 1928 as the Arkansas Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. What’s now Arkansas State University at Jonesboro and what’s now the University of Arkansas at Little Rock were among the original members.

The first champions of the conference in men’s sports were UCA in basketball in 1928, UCA in baseball in 1928, Hendrix in track and field in 1928, SAU in football in 1929, Ouachita in tennis in 1948, Henderson in golf in 1948, UCA in cross country in 1962, Arkansas Tech in bowling in 1963 and Hendrix in swimming and diving in 1964.

The AIC began sponsoring women’s sports during the 1983-84 school year. The first women’s champions that school year were Lyon in cross country, Arkansas Tech in volleyball, UCA in basketball, Hendrix in swimming and diving, Harding in softball, Lyon in track and field and UCA in tennis.

In 1957, the AIC began presenting the Cliff Shaw Scholar-Athlete Award. It was given annually for the remainder of the conference’s existence to the senior male athlete who posted the highest academic grade point average and earned at least two athletic letters in AIC-sponsored sports. The first recipient of the award was John Clem of Ouachita.

In 1984, the AIC began giving a similar award for female athletes known as the Downing-Swift-Wallace Award. The first recipient was Marci Crump of Harding.

The AIC began awarding an all-sports trophy in 1964. UCA won the award the first four years it was presented. SAU captured the all-sports trophy in five of the next seven years.

Cliff Shaw of Little Rock generally is regarded as the most important figure in conference history. He became the AIC commissioner in 1956, replacing Gen. H.L. McAlister of Conway. Shaw served as commissioner until 1971, when he was replaced by Charles Adcock of Little Rock.

The commissioner’s job was an unpaid, part-time position for Shaw, but he devoted many hours to the conference. His main job was with Coleman Dairy in Little Rock.

Shaw, who was born in 1908, was a four-sport letterman at Little Rock High School, earning 10 letters during his high school years. He signed a pro baseball contract with the Little Rock Travelers in 1927 as a shortstop.

In 1930, Shaw began officiating athletic events and later became one of the most respected football and basketball officials in the country. He officiated for 35 years in the Southwest Conference, the Big Eight and the Big Ten. He worked a number of football bowl games, including the Cotton Bowl and the Sugar Bowl. Shaw also officiated in the finals of the NCAA basketball tournament in 1953.

Shaw was inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame in 1981 and the Arkansas Officials Association Hall of Fame in 1996. Under Shaw’s direction, the AIC became known for having the finest officiating corps of any small college conference in the country.

Adcock, who was Shaw’s successor, was replaced as commissioner by Leroy Nix Jr.

Nix, in turn, was replaced in 1978 by Sid Simpson. After just one year as commissioner, Simpson was replaced by Harry T. Hall, who served in the role until the conference disbanded.

Hall, a retired Army colonel, was a building supervisor for the Little Rock School District when he was named commissioner. He had spent two decades as a college basketball official and was age 46 when he was hired by the AIC in July 1979.

Hall, a Dyess native, had received both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Henderson and had played basketball for the Reddies.

The conference’s first recognized All-Americans were Raymond “Rabbit” Burnett of UCA in football in 1937, Ken Stephens of UCA in outdoor track in 1951, E.C. O’Neal of Arkansas Tech in basketball in 1954, Bill Tiner of UCA in baseball in 1960, Cliff Clark of Harding in cross country in 1965, Tom Bateman of Harding in indoor track in 1966, Charles Burt of Harding in bowling in 1967, Jim Saucedo and Mike Pelizza of Ouachita in tennis in 1967, John Bumpers of Hendrix in swimming in 1971 and Stan Lee of UCA in golf in 1972.

The AIC is gone, but its imprint on the sports history of Arkansas is permanent.

In 1915, some of the large universities formed the Southern Intercollegiate Conference, which used the one-year rule (the eligibility of freshman athletes), while still maintaining membership within the SIAA.

On February 25, 1921, Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, Mississippi State, and Tennessee left the SIAA to form the Southern Conference, along with non-SIAA members Maryland, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Virginia, Virginia Tech, and Washington & Lee. In 1922, the Southern Conference underwent an expansion and added six more members, all at the expense of the SIAA: Florida, Louisiana State, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tulane, and Vanderbilt.

The Big Ten Conference is the United States' oldest Division I college athletic conference. Its twelve member institutions are located primarily in the Midwestern United States. On January 11, 1895, the presidents of University of Chicago, University of Illinois, University of Minnesota, University of Wisconsin, Northwestern University, Purdue University and Lake Forest College met in Chicago to discuss the regulation and control of intercollegiate athletics. The eligibility of student-athletes was one of the main topics of discussion. The Intercollegiate Conference of Faculty Representatives was founded at a second meeting on February 8, 1896. Lake Forest was not at the 1896 meeting that established the conference and was replaced by the University of Michigan. At the time, the organization was more commonly known as the Western Conference, consisting of Purdue, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Chicago, and Northwestern.

The first reference to the conference as the Big Nine was in 1899 after Iowa and Indiana had joined. Nebraska first petitioned to join the league in 1900 and again in 1911, but was turned away both times. In January 1908, Michigan and the conference parted ways after disagreements on league rules. Ohio State was added to the conference in 1912. The first reference to the conference as the Big Ten was in November 1917 after Michigan rejoined following a nine-year absence.

The conference was again known as the Big Nine after the University of Chicago decided to de-emphasize varsity athletics just after World War II. Chicago discontinued its football program in 1939 and withdrew from the conference in 1946 after struggling to gain victories in many conference matchups. It was believed that one of several schools, notably Pittsburgh, Nebraska, Michigan State, Marquette, Notre Dame, and Iowa State would replace Chicago at the time. On May 20, 1949, Michigan State ended the speculation by joining and the conference was again known as the Big Ten. The Big Ten's membership would remain unchanged for the next 40 years.

The Big Eight Conference, a former NCAA-affiliated Division I-A college athletic association that sponsored football, was formed in January 1907 as the Missouri Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MVIAA) by its charter member schools: the University of Kansas, University of Missouri, University of Nebraska, and Washington University in St. Louis. Additionally, the University of Iowa was a joint member of the newly formed MVIAA and the older Western Conference (now the Big Ten Conference).

In 1908 Drake University and Iowa State College (now Iowa State University) joined, increased conference membership to seven. Iowa departed in 1911 but Kansas State University joined the conference in 1913. Nebraska left in 1919 to play two seasons as an independent. That year, the conference added Grinnell College, with the University of Oklahoma following suit in 1920; its intrastate rival Oklahoma A&M joined in 1925.

The year 1928 proved to be a pivotal one as the conference split up. The larger state schools of Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma remained together as the MVIAA, which became known informally to fans and the media as the Big Six Conference, while the smaller schools plus Oklahoma A&M formed a new conference, the The Missouri Valley Conference (also called MVC or simply "The Valley" a college athletic conference whose members are located in the midwestern United States. The conference participates in the NCAA's Division I). The similarity of the two conferences' official names, as well as the competing claims of the two conferences, has led to considerable debate over which conference was the original and which was the spin-off. For the remainder of the Big Eight's run, both conferences claimed 1907 as their founding date, as well as the same history through 1927. To this day, it has never been definitively established which conference was the original.

The conference membership remained unchanged until the addition of the University of Colorado in 1948 from the Mountain States Conference (a forerunner of the Western Athletic Conference). The conference's unofficial name became the Big Seven Conference, coincidentally, the former unofficial name of the MSC. Oklahoma A&M, which by this time had changed its name to Oklahoma State, rejoined the conference in 1958, and the conference became known as the Big Eight. The conference remained unchanged until 1996, when four former members of the now-defunct Southwest Conference (Baylor, Texas, Texas A&M and Texas Tech) joined the eight member schools to form the Big 12 Conference.

The Southwest Conference (SWC) was a college athletic conference in the United States from 1914 to 1996. The charter members of the conference were Baylor University, Oklahoma A&M University (now Oklahoma State University), Rice University, Southwestern University (in Georgetown, Texas), Texas A&M University, the University of Arkansas, the University of Oklahoma, and the University of Texas. The Southwest Conference became an official body on December 8, 1914, at a formal meeting at the Rice Hotel in Houston.

Its early years saw fluctuation in membership; Southwestern (a comparatively smaller school) dropped out of the conference in 1916, and Southern Methodist University joined in 1918; Texas Christian University became a member in 1923. Rice University left the conference in 1916, only to re-join in 1918. Phillips University (Enid, Oklahoma) was a conference member for one year (1920). Oklahoma left in 1919 to join the Missouri Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Association (later known as the Big Eight Conference), and was followed by Oklahoma A&M in 1925. However, the intense series between Texas and Oklahoma would continue in the annual Red River Rivalry game held in Dallas. From 1925 until 1991, the University of Arkansas would be the only conference member not located within the state of Texas.

The roots of the Pac-12 Conference go back to December 2, 1915, when the Pacific Coast Conference (PCC) was founded at a meeting at the Imperial Hotel in Portland, Oregon. Charter members were the University of California (now University of California, Berkeley), the University of Washington, the University of Oregon, and Oregon Agricultural College (now Oregon State University). The conference began play in 1916.

One year later, Washington State College (now Washington State University) joined the league, followed by Stanford University in 1918. In 1922, the PCC expanded to eight teams with the admission of USC and Idaho. Montana joined the Conference in 1924, and in 1928, the PCC grew to 10 members with the addition of UCLA. For many years, the conference split into two divisions for basketball-a Southern Division comprising the four California schools and a Northern Division comprising the six schools in the Pacific Northwest. In 1950, Montana departed to join the Mountain States Conference. The PCC continued as a nine-team league through 1958.

The Southern Conference ranks as the fourth oldest major college athletic conference in the United States. Only the Big Ten (1896), Missouri Valley (1907) and Southwestern Athletic (1920) conferences are older. The conference was formed on February 25, 1921 in Atlanta as fourteen member institutions split from the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association. Southern Conference charter members were Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi State, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Tennessee, Virginia, Virginia Tech, and Washington & Lee. In 1922, six more universities - Florida, LSU, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tulane, and Vanderbilt joined the conference. Later additions included Sewanee (1923), Virginia Military Institute (1924), and Duke (1929).

The The Southern Conference is particularly notable for having spawned two other major conferences. In 1933, thirteen schools located south and west of the Appalachians (Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Sewanee, Tennessee, Tulane, and Vanderbilt) departed the Southern Conference to form the Southeastern Conference (SEC). In 1953, seven schools (Clemson, Duke, Maryland, North Carolina, North Carolina State, South Carolina, and Wake Forest) withdrew from the The Southern Conference to form the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC).

The Southeastern Conference (SEC) was established on December 8 and 9, 1932, when the thirteen members of the Southern Conference located west and south of the Appalachian Mountains left to form their own conference. Ten of the thirteen founding members have remained in the conference since its inception: the University of Alabama, Auburn University, the University of Florida, the University of Georgia, the University of Kentucky, Louisiana State University, the University of Mississippi ("Ole Miss"), Mississippi State University, the University of Tennessee, and Vanderbilt University.

The University of the South ("Sewanee") left the SEC in 1940, and later de-emphasized varsity athletics. Georgia Institute of Technology ("Georgia Tech") left the SEC in 1964. In 1975, it became a founding member of the Metro Conference, one of the predecessors to today's Conference USA. Georgia Tech competed in the Metro Conference in all sports except football, in which it was independent. In 1978, Georgia Tech joined another Southern Conference offshoot, the Atlantic Coast Conference, for all sports, where it has remained. Tulane University left the SEC in 1966. Along with Georgia Tech, it was a charter member of the Metro Conference. Unlike Tech, however, Tulane remained in the Metro Conference until it merged with the Great Midwest Conference and became the new Conference USA in 1995. Tulane remained an independent in football until C-USA began football competition in 1996.

In 1991, the SEC expanded from ten to twelve member universities with the addition of: University of Arkansas and University of South Carolina. The two new teams joined for the 1991-.1992 basketball season. At the same time, the SEC split into two divisions-a Western Division comprising most of the schools in the Central Time Zone, and an Eastern Division comprising the schools in the Eastern Time Zone plus Vanderbilt (which is located in the Central Time Zone, but is in the Eastern Division to preserve its rivalry with Tennessee). This divisional format remains in place today.

The Big East was founded in 1979 when Providence, St. John's, Georgetown, and Syracuse invited Seton Hall,Connecticut, Holy Cross, and Boston College to form a conference primarily focused on basketball, with Rutgers and Holy Cross declining to join. Villanova joined a year later in 1980 and Pittsburgh joined in 1982. In 1985, Penn State applied for membership, but was rejected, with only five schools in favor (Penn State needed six out of eight).

About a decade after the conference's inception, Big East members decided to become a major football conference and thus added five schools including Miami, Temple, Virginia Tech, West Virginia, and Rutgers. Penn State joined the Big Ten Conference. The inaugural Big East football season launched in 1991. West Virginia and Rutgers were football-only members until 1995, Virginia Tech was a football-only member until 2001, with Temple remaining a football-only member until 2004, after failing to attract enough consistent fan support. The Big East offered Notre Dame a non-football membership effective 1995. This led to an unusual conference structure with some schools competing in Division I basketball only.

The Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) was founded in 1953 in Greensboro, North Carolina, seven universities were charter members of the ACC: Clemson, Duke, Maryland, North Carolina, North Carolina State, South Carolina, and Wake Forest. Previously members of the Southern Conference, they left partially due to that league's ban on post-season play. On December 4, 1953, officials convened in Greensboro, North Carolina, and admitted Virginia into the conference.

In 1971, South Carolina left the ACC to become an independent. The ACC operated with seven members until the addition of Georgia Tech from the Metro Conference on April 3, 1978. The total number of member schools reached nine with the addition of Florida State, also formerly from the Metro Conference, on July 1, 1991. The ACC added three members from the Big East Conference during the 2005 cycle of conference realignment: Miami and Virginia Tech joined on July 1, 2004, and Boston College joined on July 1, 2005, as the league's twelfth member and the first and only one from New England. The expansion was not without controversy, since Connecticut, Rutgers, Pittsburgh, and West Virginia (and, initially, Virginia Tech) filed lawsuits against the ACC, Miami, and Boston College for conspiring to weaken the Big East Conference.

The Mountain West Conference is the youngest of the college athletic conferences affiliated with the NCAA's Division I FBS. The Mountain West Conference officially began operations in July 1999. Geographically, the Mountain West Conference covers a broad expanse of the western United States, with member institutions located in California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, and Wyoming. Charter members included Air Force, BYU, Colorado State, New Mexico, San Diego State, UNLV, Utah, and Wyoming. Before forming the Mountain West Conference, seven of the eight charter members had been longtime members of the Western Athletic Conference; half were WAC charter members at its formation in 1962 - UNLV had only joined the WAC in 1996.

The WAC expanded from 10 to 16 universities in 1996, absorbing three teams from the defunct Southwest Conference (Rice, SMU, and TCU), adding two from the Big West (San Jose State and UNLV), and Tulsa from the Missouri Valley. After three football seasons, most of the pre-expansion members decided that the new WAC was oversized, and departed to form the Mountain West Conference. The MWC added a ninth team in 2005: TCU, also a former WAC member, which joined after four seasons in Conference USA.

On June 11, 2010, Boise State University agreed to join the conference as its tenth member. On June 17, 2010, Utah announced it would be leaving the Mountain West to join what would become the Pacific-12 Conference. On August 18, 2010, amidst rumors that Brigham Young was considering leaving the Mountain West to go independent in football and rejoin the Western Athletic Conference in all other sports, the Mountain West Conference officially extended invitations to California State University, Fresno and the University of Nevada, Reno. Fresno State and Nevada accepted and would become the tenth and eleventh members of the league. BYU announced on August 31, 2010 that it would leave the Mountain West Conference and go Independent in football and become a member of the West Coast Conference in other sports starting in 2011. On November 29, 2010, Texas Christian University announced all athletic teams would move to the Big East Conference effective in 2012. On December 10, 2010, the University of Hawaii at Manoa accepted a bid to become the 10th member of the conference for football only.

The Western Athletic Conference formed out of a series of talks between Brigham Young University and other universities from 1958 to 1961 to form a new athletic conference that would better fit the needs and situations of certain universities which were at the time members of the Border, Skyline, and Pacific Coast Conferences. Potential member universities who were represented at the meetings included BYU, Washington State, Oregon, Oregon State, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Arizona State, and Wyoming. While the three Washington and Oregon schools elected to stay in a revamped Pac-8 Conference that replaced the scandal-plagued PCC, the remaining six schools formed the WAC, forcing the disbandment of the Border and Skyline conferences. The charter members of the WAC were Arizona, Arizona State, BYU, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. New Mexico State and Utah State applied for charter membership and were turned down; they would eventually become WAC members 43 years later.

Texas-El Paso (UTEP), recently renamed from Texas Western College, and Colorado State joined in 1967 to bring membership up to eight. In the summer of 1978, the Arizona schools left the WAC for the Pac-8, which became the Pac-10, and were replaced in the WAC by San Diego State and, one year later, Hawaii. The WAC further expanded by adding Air Force in the summer of 1980. A college football national championship won by Brigham Young in 1984 added to the WAC's reputation as the best of the so-called mid-major conferences. This nine-team line-up of the WAC defined the conference for nearly 15 years.

Fresno State expanded its athletic program in the early 1990s and was granted membership in 1992 as the nationwide trend against major college programs independent of conferences accelerated. The WAC merged with the High Country Athletic Conference, a parallel organization to the WAC for women's athletics, in 1990 to unify both men's and women's athletics under one administrative structure.

In 1996, the WAC expanded again, adding six schools to its ranks for a total of sixteen. Rice, TCU, and SMU joined the league from the Southwest Conference, which had disbanded. Big West Conference members San Jose State and UNLV were also admitted, as well as Tulsa from the Missouri Valley Conference. With the expansion, the WAC was divided into two divisions. Air Force, BYU, Colorado State, Utah, and Wyoming felt that WAC expansion had compromised the athletic and academic excellence of the membership. In 1999, those five schools, along with old line WAC schools New Mexico and San Diego State, as well as newcomer UNLV, split off and formed the new Mountain West Conference.

When the Big West announced that it would drop football after the 2000 season, four of its members (Boise State, Idaho, New Mexico State, and Utah State) wanted to continue their football programs. Boise State was invited to join the WAC and promptly departed the Big West, while New Mexico State and Idaho joined the Sun Belt Conference (NMSU as a full member, Idaho as a "football only" member) and Utah State operated as an independent. At the same time, Louisiana Tech accepted an invitation to join the WAC with Boise State.

In 2005, Conference USA sought new members to replenish its ranks after losing members to the Big East, which had lost members to the ACC. Four WAC schools, former SWC schools Rice and SMU, as well as Tulsa, and UTEP, joined Conference USA. In response, the WAC added Idaho, New Mexico State, and Utah State -. all former Big West schools which left the conference in 2000 along with Boise State when that conference dropped football. The three new schools were all land grant universities, bringing the conference total to five (Nevada and Hawaii).



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