Those road trips to Logan to play Utah State are never easy, but Seattle coach Cameron Dollar can't wait. When his team joins the Western Athletic Conference for the 2012-13 season, he wants the challenge of going up against the best and shooting for the NCAA tournament.
"If you want to climb to the top, you gotta play the big dogs," he said Tuesday after WAC commissioner Karl Benson announced Seattle had accepted the league's invitation.
"Where we want to go, we need to be competing on par, competing with teams of the caliber of the WAC. The WAC is a nationally known entity. To be connected with that does nothing but great things for us. They’ve proven they can provide a platform for us to take our program nationally."
While currently an independent, Seattle has enough resources that Benson even hinted that the program could be a Gonzaga in the future. The Redhawks play in a former NBA facility at KeyArena. They have a name coach in Dollar, the former UCLA Bruin. Seattle is also a destination city.
"At this time, the WAC believes Seattle U has the academic characteristics, the athletic characteristics and the media market," said Benson, adding that KeyArena would be considered as a site for the WAC tournament in the future.
Seattle's program has had success in the present and the past (does the name Elgin Baylor ring a bell?). In the past two years, they've played a Division I schedule and have been bothersome for many teams. They have picked up wins against Oregon State (twice), Utah, Virginia, and also current WAC teams Fresno State and Idaho.
The WAC will change dramatically by the time Seattle joins in 2012 along with Denver, Texas State and UT-San Antonio. The conference is losing Boise State, Fresno State, Hawaii and Nevada.
The league declined to extend an invitation to Utah Valley, but Benson did say the addition of Seattle certainly did not preclude the league from considering non-football-playing members for future membership. Benson also prefers to add one or two more football-playing schools.
For now, the WAC stretches from Seattle to Louisiana Tech. All that means a lot of traveling for the Redhawks, who have done their share of it during a successful stint as an independent.
"Travel for us, we've experienced all the travel you need," Dollar said. "It'll be fun to have a conference schedule, to have more of an opportunity to be on TV. I have great respect for the teams in the league."