How Seattle and Cal Baptist Can Win Realignment

The Big 12's unlikely courting of Gonzaga may have the West Coast Conference in panic mode. Enter the WAC's two truly Western schools.

Seattle and Cal-Baptist are the WAC's two Westernmost schools.
Source: Dean Rutz / The Seattle Times

Does it ever end? Conference realignment remains in the news with the latest rumor involving the Big 12 giving a close look to Gonzaga as they await the possible exit of schools from the PAC-12.

Losing Gonzaga puts the West Coast Conference in a precarious position as they not only lose their most dominant men's basketball program but the conference's membership drops to eight members, a scary number in these turbulent times in college athletics.

Luckily for the WCC, two schools are in an awkward position in another conference on the west coast (or with Western in its name). Seattle and Cal Baptist are not only the two Pacific outliers in the Western Athletic Conference, but one of only four members that will not have a football team after 2025.

Geographically and culturally, the West Coast Conference is a better fit than the WAC for both schools. The difference in travel for both schools in the Western Athletic Conference and the West Coast Conference is immense. Just look at this table below:

Breakdown of Distances From Each WAC and WCC Member From Cal Baptist and Seattle
Source: Redshirt Sports

The reduction in travel would be a win for both schools, especially Seattle which has a whopping four WAC members over 2000 miles away. Adding Seattle also gives Portland a travel partner as both schools are less than 200 miles away from one another. Cal Baptist would be right at home as three schools are within 100 miles from their Riverside, California campus.

Both schools are also better fits culturally for the West Coast Conference as both are religious institutions like the other current members, with Seattle replacing Gonzaga as the fourth Jesuit member. Cal Baptist would join Pepperdine and Pacific as non-Catholic religious institutions.

More importantly, the West Coast Conference is a non-football conference. Earlier this Spring, the WAC and ASun made their marriage official with a rechristening as the "United Athletic Conference." It may seem far-fetched, but this move is a step towards the WAC and ASun kicking their non-football-playing members to the curb and joining forces to pursue their FBS aspirations. Joining the WCC eliminates concern for this doomsday scenario.

Finally, the WCC even without Gonzaga has a better men's basketball reputation than the WAC. The WCC still would have St. Mary's to take Gonzaga's spot as king of the conference in men's basketball and other programs like San Francisco, Santa Clara, and even Portland have been approached to play in neutral-court games at NBA arenas. The WAC is a solid basketball conference in its own right but was hurt by the losses of New Mexico State and Sam Houston State to Conference USA.

The WCC is a refreshing reminder of what college athletics was, with its tight geographic footprint and sensible and sustained geographic rivalries. However, if they do not act soon, they are at risk of being left behind in the ever-evolving world of college athletics. Seattle and Cal Baptist need to be the WCC's backup plan should they lose Gonzaga.