Fresno State to stay with the WAC until 2012; pay $900,000

Fresno, CA

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Fresno State and Nevada will each pay the WAC $900,000 over the next five years to leave for the Mountain West Conference. That may sound like a lot, but the WAC thought it could collect a $5 million penalty, and Fresno State may actually be making money on the move.

You won't see the emotions of a big win on the field on the faces of Fresno State administrators, but they are celebrating a win Thursday.

Fresno State's move to the MWC is now official, and although it'll come a year later than planned and at a high cost in exit fees, it's a big jump for the Bulldogs.

"This is a little bit longer road than we would've liked, but at the same time, all roads lead to the same place and that's the Mountain West Conference and the prestige that being in that league brings," said Fresno State athletic director Thomas Boeh.

Fresno State missed a July 1 deadline to leave the WAC and broke a solidarity agreement to make the jump, which the conference claimed should result in a $5 million exit fee. But moving to the mountain west means more a lot money from football and basketball -- enough of a difference to more than make up for the exit fees.

"We will realize a dramatic increase in revenue from the Mountain West Conference, so essentially the first five years, we'll get a little less than we normally would've," said university president Dr. John Welty.

WAC commissioner Karl Benson had harsh words for Fresno State and Nevada when the schools announced their intentions in August, calling them both selfish. Even after forcing both schools to stay an extra year, and negotiating exit fees, he's not happy. "I don't think I'm prepared to say it's a good deal or a bad deal," Benson said. "It's a deal that's been done and it's time to move forward."

Fresno State will be a lame duck for about 20 months in the WAC, but administrators don't think the athletes will even notice. And they have a plan for this last year-and-a-half.

"What we'll probably try to do is utilize the time by winning WAC championships as much as we can," Boeh said.

WAC revenue shares are expected to be about $750,000 for each school this year. Fresno State won't get its share for its last season in the WAC, so along with the exit fee, that's a total loss of about $1.6 million. But because of the difference in conference revenues, they believe they'll make up the money in less than three years.

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