PROVO — Tuesday's media day at BYU wasn’t all about football and indepencdence. The excitement expressed by both ESPN and BYU regarding football was certainly shared by West Coast Conference commissioner Jamie Zaninovich for most other sports.
“We’re ecstatic that the day has finally come,” he said. “Since the announcement, sometimes it felt like it took a week, but other times like 10 years to get to where we are to finally bring BYU into the conference.”
BYU will now start competing against WCC teams in most other non-football sports from this date forward.
So how will the Cougars fit in?
“Institutionally, they’re (BYU) a great fit obviously,” said Zaninovich. “Athletically, I think they’re a perfect fit. The reason for that is that if you look into BYU’s competitive history in sports they bring to the West Coast Conference, which we studied very closely. They’ll come in as a top-half performer in every sport that they bring to the conference.”
The hope is for BYU to help create some natural rivalries, starting with men‘s basketball. Zaninovich feels that the seeds have already been planted for potential great basketball rivalries, “We already have one” he said referring to what he saw when BYU went up against Gonzaga in the NCAA Tournament.
“I would hope that (BYU vs. Gonzaga) would be the first of many rivalries,” said Zaninovich. “When I was here on July 1 for the announcement, I can’t tell you how many people passed who told me how great it was to be in the conference and how excited they were to see Gonzaga come to the Marriot Center.
"I think after that game in Denver, that you have a lot of people in Spokane that will welcome the chance to have BYU play every year at the Kennel (Gonzaga’s home court.) Gonzaga’s home environment is like no other, except for perhaps maybe here. And they’re not the only great home-court environment that BYU fans will find in our conference.”
In regards to sports other than men‘s basketball, the potential for immediate and competitive rivalries certainly exists.
“I know that when this announcement was made, and as we were going through the process, almost all of our Olympic sports' coaches called and said ‘Wow, this is an absolute win for the conference to bring in a school like BYU.” said Zaninovich. “July 1 was a dawn of a new era, and that‘s really how we see this. We’re a conference that hasn’t added a school in 30 years, and that’s because we have a very good sense of who we are and we feel very stable. It had to be the right school that brought the right requisite value to bring into the conference and with BYU, they’re going to help us redefine what we are.”