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UH Left In Another Bad Conference

Navy is just one of the many teams running away from mid-continent mediocrity. AP / Ann Heisenfeltphoto

For Sale: One college athletic sports league. Hardly used. A real fixer upper. Ample square footage in safe neighborhood. Going fast. No reasonable offer refused. Interesting trades excepted. Call WAC commissioner Craig Thomas.

When UH announced it was joining the Mountain West Conference in football, a celebratory mood rose among the green hills and rusty drainpipes of the Manoa campus.

The faithful celebrated the escape from the gasping corpse that is the Western Athletic Conference. A brighter future was assured among the cool kids who not so long ago left UH with no seat on the bus.

Then something unexpected happened. The Mountain West became the WAC.

The Rocky Mountainbased conference seemed like a natural fit for UH. Loaded with former rivals, the organization was on the wish list of every fan akamai enough to realize UH’s chances of a Pac-12 (then 10) invite was about the same as Ndamukong Suh getting Karl Rove and Clint Eastwood to join him on a Midwestern road trip.

Even after Utah bolted for the Pac-12, and BYU split with wistful dreams of independent riches, the conference featuring Hawaii, Boise State, TCU, Nevada, San Diego State, Fresno, Colorado State, UNLV, New Mexico, Wyoming and Air Force could still claim football par with the lowly Big East and half the ACC.

But that was then.

TCU and San Diego are gone and Boise will be. Air Force couldn’t get the Big East deal done, though it could in another year.

Heck, the Mountain West couldn’t even hold the title as the nation’s highest D1 conference. Recent changes have reduced its average height to a paltry 3,472 feet, 22 feet below the mighty Big Sky conference.

And even its longtime commissioner is looking for a way out. Thomas has so much faith in the organization that he has to all but checked out to take the athletic director position at the University of Minnesota, his alma mater. Thomas would rather battle Northwestern for bottom-feeder status in the Legends Division of the Big Ten (laugh if you must) than play on as the conference Titanic slips beneath the waves.

Could things get worse? They just did.

Conference USA’s board of directors met last week to, among other things, talk about a complete merger with the Mountain West.

Imagine, the group that couldn’t hold on to Memphis, Houston, Central Florida and SMU is coming to the rescue, bringing its irresistible blend of mediocrity and compass-confusing locations to the conference no one seems to want. Looks like UH has once again been left home on a Friday night.

They should be used to it. UH has been, and always will be, on the outside looking in.

No matter its affiliation, the football team will forever be anchored to the Hawaii Bowl, and not even the Big Ten’s supportive note of a four-team playoff can rescue the Warriors from that fate.

Next season men’s basketball moves from one one-invite conference to another, and any future move to the USA-MW won’t change that.

But there is an upside to being a big fish in a stinking little pond. Less competition means more banners. And with that comes the delusion of greater success.

Hey, a win’s a win.