Bittersweet 16

February 14th, 2012
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In 1994, the presidents of the WAC voted to add six teams, increasing membership to 16 teams beginning in 1996. A quadrant system was created in which four-team groups would pair to create two rotating eight-team divisions each year. But by 1998, seven pre-expansion WAC members and UNLV met in a Denver airport conference room to plot their secession from the WAC to form the Mountain West Conference in 1999.

It was significant that several of the presidents who voted for expansion weren't around for the implosion. And several presidents who met in that Denver conference room weren't around by the MWC's fifth birthday.

Which brings us back to the future. The merger of the MWC and C-USA was agreed out of necessity, a strength-in-numbers approach. Whether this version of the 16-team model can overcome the obstacles of the WAC's version — mainly, geography — will be known in a few years. Any chance for success rests on the architects— the current MWC and C-USA leaders — being around for several more years. After all, the best way to address structural problems is to consult with the original designers.

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Our friend Vinny Lopes at offtheblockblog.com notes that BYU lead the nation in home attendance for men's volleyball matches.

Here's his list:

1. BYU — 4,595

2. Hawaii — 2,869

3. UC Irvine — 1,509

4. Penn State — 1,052

5. USC — 950

6. Long Beach State — 752

7. Loyola — 706

8. UCLA — 686

9. Lewis — 634

10. Pepperdine — 601

Here's a link to his story: MVB attendance.

All of which brings us to the question: What the heck?

UH should be leading in that category. So here are some suggestions on how to boost interest:

1. Shorten the matches. UH is the only place where there is an extended break between the second and third sets. The original intent was to preview KHNL's news. Well, Oceanic now has the rights and doesn't have a newscast. Also, the timeouts, which are 1 minute everywhere else, are 1:45 in the Stan Sheriff Center. There have been many times when a coach is finished addressing the team and there's still a minute to kill.

• Re-work the script. There's a specific order for entertainment during breaks. At the bottom of the list is the Rubberband Man's routine.  Move him up to, say, the second set. That will get the crowd going earlier. In the last match, he wasn't summoned until the timeout right before aloha ball in what would be UC Irvine's three-set sweep. Well, at least the fans were cheery en route to the parking structure.

• Flip the sides. I always calls the office with the turnstile count, and I always receive the same reaction: Yeah, right. That's because most of the fans sit behind the team benches. In volleyball, the cameras are not facing the bench. The original intent was because the TV commentators didn't want to sit on the same side as the up judge (who was blocking the view of the full court). By shooting from behind the benches, home viewers are looking at  sparse background. There really is more interest than what appears on the TV screen.

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