After months of rumors, it has finally been made official. The Western Wrestling Conference will fold into the Big XII, with all six members joining the Big XII as affiliate members for wrestling. Say hello to your new Big XII schools.
North Dakota State Bison, 23rd at 2015 NCAA championships
South Dakota State Jackrabbits, coached by Iowa State alum Chris Bono, 53rd at 2015 NCAA championships
Air Force Falcons, 52nd at 2015 NCAA Championships
Northern Colorado Bears, coached by former Iowa State assistant Troy Nickerson, 46th at 2015 NCAA championships
Wyoming Cowboys, 39th at 2015 NCAA championships
Utah Valley Wolverines, 58th at 2015 NCAA championships
Why Did These Teams Get Invited?
If you followed WRNL's wrestling coverage last season, you'll recall that the NCAA removed the Big XII's qualifying status for 2015, forcing all Iowa State wrestlers to qualify for the NCAA tournament via the at-large process. These six additions were made to give the Big XII tournament more legitimacy and regain recognition as an NCAA qualifying event. For the time being, these additions are for the Big XII tournament only. Iowa State will not be required to add these affiliate schools to their dual meet schedule.
Has Something Like This Been Done Before?
Yes. The Pac-12 does something similar, with Boise State, Cal Poly, and Cal-State Bakersfield included as affiliate schools for wrestling. The Big XII itself added three affiliates (Alabama, Tennessee, and Old Dominion) for women's rowing earlier this year.
How Good Will The New Big XII Be?
In 2015, this combined conference would have had 48 NCAA qualifiers, 15 wrestlers in the round of twelve, 9 All-Americans, 3 NCAA finalists, and 2 national champions. The new schools won't add a lot of starpower to the Big XII tournament. NDSU is the only one of the six that might challenge for being top three in the conference anytime soon, but they will add some much needed depth. With the growth to 10 schools, the conference tournament will expand from two rounds to four and be spread out over two full days rather than a single afternoon.
Does This Mean We Can Add Notre Dame As An Affiliate For Football?