The Western Athletic Conference survived the departures of football powerhouse Boise State and longtime stalwarts Nevada and Fresno State to the Mountain West Conference.
But a similar move by Hawaii would push the 48-year-old WAC to the brink of extinction.
Hawaii is reportedly in discussions to join the more prestigious Mountain West for football in 2012 and place its other sports in the Big West.
Such a move would put the WAC in danger of losing both its automatic bid to the NCAA men's basketball tournament and its status as a Football Bowl Subdivision conference -- a double whammy that could cripple the conference financially.
WAC commissioner Karl Benson did not respond to an interview request Friday. He was no doubt busy scrambling to keep his conference intact.
Without Hawaii, the WAC would be left with seven schools for 2012, including newcomers Texas State and Texas-San Antonio.
But only five would qualify as continuing members: San Jose State, New Mexico State, Idaho, Utah State and Louisiana Tech.
And therein lies the problem. The NCAA requires conferences to have at least six continuing members in order to receive an automatic bid to its postseason championships, including March Madness and its multimillion-dollar payday.
In addition, conferences are required to have at least eight members for classification in the Football Bowl Subdivision. (The WAC could continue to play football but wouldn't be FBS.)
Without Hawaii, the WAC would be one short on both counts.
Hawaii's departure would also place the league's tenuous television contract and bowl partnerships in even greater peril.
So desperate is the WAC to keep Hawaii that Benson made a counterproposal Friday morning that would allow Hawaii to remain in the WAC for football but move its other sports to the Big West.
That would allow UH to reap the cost-saving benefits of the Big West, which has seven schools in Southern California, while maintaining a competitive edge in football.
Hawaii would be one of the masses in the Mountain West. But it could be the class of the WAC and, as such, would have a much easier path into the Bowl Championship Series.
But UH officials, who have been exploring their options since Fresno State and Nevada announced they were leaving the WAC in August, favor the Mountain West.
"We have a handshake, but we have yet to agree on the details," UH president M.R.C. Greenwood said Thursday night.
The WAC would have one option in the event of Hawaii's departure.
The NCAA is expected to consider legislation at its convention in January that would eliminate the continuity-of-membership clause.
Benson told CBSSports.com that he expects the rule to change.
And if it doesn't? The WAC would be on life support.