|Eight Div. I wrestling programs have formed the Western Wrestling Conference|
By Colin McDonough Univ. of Northern Iowa
CEDAR FALLS, Iowa - Eight intercollegiate institutions have announced the formation of the Western Wrestling Conference (WWC). The NCAA Division I wrestling-only alliance will begin competition in the 2006-07 season.
Charter members of the Western Wrestling Conference will include: the United States Air Force Academy, Fresno State University, North Dakota State University, the University of Northern Colorado, the University of Northern Iowa, South Dakota State University, Utah Valley State College and the University of Wyoming.
"We are happy with this new conference affiliation for our wrestling
program," UNI Director of Athletics Rick Hartzell said. "At UNI, we
strive to have a national top-10 program and we think this league
affiliation will continue to allow us to have a strong wrestling program that can reach those lofty aspirations."
With league members spread out over seven states and three time zones, schools will only be required to compete against five league schools in dual action to be eligible for the regular season conference championship. Schools will be encouraged to schedule as many conference schools as possible.
Four of the members currently compete in the NCAA West Regional and they include Air Force, Fresno State, UNI and Wyoming. Northern Colorado, North Dakota State, South Dakota State and Utah Valley State are transitioning their programs to the Division I level. UNC, NDSU, SDSU will be eligible for the NCAA Championships in 2006-07, while UVSC will be eligible for the postseason in 2009-10.
The 2007 NCAA West Regional will still serve as the NCAA qualifying tournament and will be hosted by the University of Northern Iowa. The goal of the league is to replace the West Regional with the conference tournament, which would then serve as the NCAA qualifier.
The WWC will submit its application for formal recognition to the NCAA. The WWC plans to recognize student-athletes on both a weekly and full-season basis. Individual awards will include Wrestler of the Week; All-Conference teams; an Academic All-Conference team; and Wrestler, Newcomer and Coach of the Year awards. The league will also crown a team champion following the conclusion of the regular season conference competition and the postseason tournament.
The governance of the Western Wrestling Conference will remain primarily with the member institutions. Scheduling of contests, assignment of officials and certain media relations functions will remain with member institutions.
Col. Billy Walker of the United States Air Force Academy will serve
as the Conference Commissioner, while Colin McDonough of UNI will serve as the WWC Media Relations Director.
"This is a very important alliance between quality institutions," Walker said. "We think that it will strengthen our programs and provide a better experience for our student-athletes."
The eight member schools are spread out of over seven states and three time zones, which will give each school added exposure - both in terms of media and recruiting - in new destinations. The conference affiliation is also expected to generate much interest within the eight schools' substantial alumni base, which numbers nearly 800,000 combined.