Reflecting on Utah State’s final season in the WAC
Put the Team on my Back
Published: Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, April 23, 2013 14:04
What a year, Aggie fans. What a year.
With championships in football, soccer and volleyball, and a good deal of success in many others, we closed out our years in the Western Athletic Conference with a bang. Only injuries could seemingly slow us down this year, with men’s basketball especially being hit hard. With fully healthy teams, who knows what more could have happened?
It’s hard to believe that eight years ago, Utah State joined the WAC with many wondering aloud how we would stack up to the step up in competition. It’s safe to say the Aggies quieted them all. Now it’s time to look ahead to the next summit and “join the climb” in the Mountain West Conference.
The teams are bigger. The money is bigger. The stage is bigger. And with the majority of players from the sports headlines returning, the Aggies could enter the conference with a head full of steam.
Football is where most look when a team changes conferences. At first glance, fans will see Boise State in the same league and say, “Here we come,” and for good reason, with the amount of exposure, money and high playing field the Broncos bring. In the good ol’ Big West Conference days, the Aggies and Broncos had a bit of a rivalry going on the gridiron that can now be renewed. Oct. 12 is and should already be circled on the calendar for fending off that annoying blue and orange from Romney Stadium.
The rest of the league, however, isn’t flying so high. Last year’s much maligned WAC was actually ranked higher by ESPN’s final conference power rankings than the MWC. Utah State went 3-0 against 2013 MWC opponents last season, with the closest game being a 31-19 victory over Colorado State. Expect a birth to the inaugural Mountain West championship game to be determined here in Logan against Boise.
Basketball, on the other hand, is the true strength of the Mountain West. Though they only went 2-5 in the NCAA tournament, the league still sent a total of five teams, meaning the level of competition just skyrocketed for Stew’s boys. The good news, though, is this is a great year for it to happen. Whatever plague hit the team this year, taking out three starters and weakening the rest of the team, in the end was a blessing in disguise. Multiple players earned valuable experience they would have never had before, and only Kyisean Reed will be missed from next year’s squad.
One of Stew’s most heralded recruiting classes ever will hardly get a chance to sniff the floor with all the talent and experience the team will return. This should allow for solid success and a definite shot at an NCAA tournament berth not only next year, but for many years to come.
Many other squads return valuable components that will shine bright next year under the even bigger lights the Mountain West provides as well. So remember this year and what happened and then move on to the 2013-2014 season. Be sure to work hard over the summer to earn the funds to get around and support our team, because next year we may not just be “joining the climb.” We may be “conquering the climb” in the Mountain West.
– Mark Hopkins is an obsessive Aggie fan who moonlights as an almost unbiased Statesman writer. He is majoring in business administration and preparing for medical school. Comment at email@example.com or his blog, www.spectrumagic.blogspot.com.