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A ‘new era’ for UMKC: UMKC to join the Western Athletic Conference

UMKC announced last week that it will join the Western Athletic Conference next fall.

After 19 years in the Summit League, UMKC will face a new slate of NCAA Division I teams: Cal State- Bakersfield, Chicago State, Grand Canyon (Ariz.), Idaho, New Mexico State, Seattle, Texas-Pan American and Utah Valley.

“We are excited about this new era in UMKC Athletics,” Director of Athletics Tim Hall said in a statement.

A press conference with UMKC and WAC officials will be held Thursday, Feb. 14.

WAC Interim Commissioner Jeff Hurd said he was “extremely pleased with the addition of UMKC to the WAC family.”

“It not only solidifies our membership for the 2013-’14 season, but also gives us a strong core of institutions that will help the WAC reestablish itself as a top Division I conference,” Hurd said in a statement.

The WAC has undergone a complete turnover during the past several years, and UMKC is among six teams joining the soon-to-be non-football conference in 2013.

Seven of the conference’s 10 current members will leave after this season.

Among them is the University of Denver, which will join the Summit League next fall.

However, there is speculation that other teams may follow UMKC’s departure from the Summit League and could join the WAC or other conferences.

North Dakota State and South Dakota State, both Summit League members, play in the Missouri Valley Football Conference.

Chancellor Leo Morton announced UMKC’s decision to members of the Student Government Association last Tuesday.

A long-time focus of the UMKC Athletics Department has been bolstering attendance and revenue.

“We accepted the invitation to join the Western Athletic Conference because of the strong potential alignment it offers with our strategic objectives related to community engagement and financial strength,” Morton said in a statement.

UMKC has played Division I since 1987. It joined the Mid-Continent Conference (now Summit League) in 1994 after seven years as an independent.

The following statement was released by the Summit League:

“We wish UMKC all the best in the future. We remain steadfast in strengthening our league and are excited about the University of Denver joining us as a new member in 2013-’14.”

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