The Western Athletic Conference has waived UMKC’s entrance fee and said it will hold its post-season basketball tournament in Kansas City, UMKC officials announced last Thursday at a press conference.
Chancellor Leo E. Morton explained the decision to leave the Summit League, effective June 30, 2013.
“I believe that UMKC is a good fit for the WAC,” he said. “There will be less travel time for the athletes. We will also get more media coverage in cities like Chicago and Phoenix.”
UMKC will be the ninth member of the WAC, joining California State University-
Bakersfield, Chicago State University, Grand Canyon University, University of Idaho, New Mexico State University, Seattle University, The University of Texas-Pan American and Utah Valley University.
Morton claimed the WAC will benefit all UMKC teams, particularly basketball.
“Kansas City has always been a college basketball town,” Morton said. “Now we will have the opportunity to host the WAC men’s basketball tournaments here in Kansas City.”
However, the year in which UMKC will host the post-season basketball tournament has not been determined.
The WAC has sent at least two men’s basketball teams to the NCAA Tournament in 24 of the past 29 seasons. However, only three of the teams that will play in the WAC next year are returning members, as the WAC becomes a non-football conference.
Tim Hall, Director of Athletics, said rigorous research was conducted before reaching the decision.
“The WAC has great brand recognition,” he said. “Our teams will travel to large cities. There will be a $160,000 increase in travel expenses. However, this will be privately funded.”
The teams will take fewer bus trips, and according to UMKC officials, will miss 12 percent less class time.
UMKC will not have to pay an entrance fee to the WAC, and the conference will cover the cost of the exit fee from the Summit League.
In the WAC, UMKC will be eligible for NCAA championship play in each of its 16 sports.
“We received this invitation because we are in a great city,” Morton said.
WAC Interim Commissioner Jeff Hurd explained what the conference looks for when recruiting new universities.
“We look at leadership as a whole and commitment to both athletics and academics,” he said. “UMKC is a good fit—in competition and in institutional values.”
Morton pointed out that the Municipal Auditorium has been home to the most Final Four’s in NCAA history. However, no NCAA tournament games have been hosted at Municipal since 1964.
Hall expressed excitement about a new era in UMKC Athletics.
“We look forward to competing alongside the institutions in the WAC and providing a great experience for our student-athletes,” he said.