MW, CUSA to form new conference

Here is the news release from the Mountain West on the forming of a new conference with Conference USA:


DALLAS, Texas – Presidents and chancellors from 16 universities met in Dallas Sunday to discuss future conference membership plans and agreed to work on forming a new intercollegiate athletic association that would begin competition in the 2013-14 academic year.

This presidentially led association will ensure stability and be built upon the principles of operating at the highest level of integrity and sportsmanship, enhancing the student-athlete academic and competitive experience, bringing fiscal discipline into athletics and ensuring competitive fairness.

“This is an exciting development that will stabilize the current conferences and create the first truly national conference with members in five time zones and television viewership from coast to coast.  This partnership brings together like-minded institutions to improve the integrity and stability of intercollegiate athletics,” said UNLV President Neal Smatresk. “We are moving our plans forward rapidly and expect to complete our conversations in the near future. Look for further announcements soon as we work together on this exciting new venture.”

Universities involved in the discussions were the United States Air Force Academy, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Colorado State University, East Carolina University, Fresno State, University of Hawaii, Marshall University, University of Nevada, Reno, University of New Mexico, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Rice University, University of Southern Mississippi, University of Texas at El Paso, Tulane University, The University of Tulsa and University of Wyoming. With the exception of Hawaii as a football only member, the participation would involve all sports.

The structure of the new conference will likely include:
·        Membership of 18 to 24 universities
·        National scope from the Atlantic Seaboard to Hawaii
·        Championship football game format that includes semifinal match-ups
·        Championship basketball tournament
·        Regular season scheduling in divisions
·        NCAA FBS affiliation
·        Mechanisms to emphasize and improve academic standards and fiscal responsibility

The presidents and chancellors will have follow-up meetings over the next six months to fully develop the operational issues essential to the formation of the association.


OK, as I count the current team I get 16. To get to 18-24, who do you add?

I think Utah State, San Jose State and Louisiana Tech from the WAC are the leading candidates. Seems to me divisions will be East-West so most current MW teams will continue to play each other. I think UTEP will come over from the CUSA side to the West, kind of a reunion of an old WAC foe.

The league covers from coast-to-coast, but what television network(s) will want to take on these games, and pay the kind of money the schools are hoping to get? I get the feeling there will be a lot of mid-week games in football, something that led to the formation of the MW.

If there’s safety in numbers, which was what we were told last fall in so many words why a merger/association between the two teams was formed, then I guess that works. But just not seeing a ton of other benefits, unless some TV network pays a lot of money to televise sporting events. Remember, more teams may mean if other conferences come calling this new league could survive. But it also means more teams to split revenue with as well. Where is the revenue coming from?

A semifinal and championship game in football? Interesting, but how will that effect scheduling of non-conference games, or does it? Where will games be played, and will anyone go to them?

Heck, who is going to be the commissioner? Will it be MW commish Craig Thompson, who seems to be a candidate for the AD job at Minnesota? The CUSA commish, or someone completely new? Maybe I will get my resume updated (kidding).

Still lots of questions remain, kind of last last fall when it was first announced this would happen.

I know most of you have opinions on this, let me know what you think.

35 thoughts on “MW, CUSA to form new conference

  1. Didn’t we try this once before, back in the late ’90s with the 16-team WAC? It failed then, and I think it will fail now. Pretty much all this does is put all of the best mid-majors in one conference, where it will be easier for the bigger conferences to raid the next time an SEC or a Big Ten pulls in someone from the Big 12 or Big East.

    I think Robert asks the best question — where is all this revenue going to come from? I’m sure Fox or ESPN will ink a deal, but at a fraction of what the SEC or Big Ten gets. There just won’t be that much money to go around, and before you know it, the MW teams will be right back where they were when they broke off from the WAC, but in an even weaker position.

    I hope I’m wrong.

    • I think you are right Jake. I am not a fan. I do not think that this mishmash of collegiate odds-and-ends representing the whole spectrum of institutional types and purposes is as stable as the University Presidents have convinced themselves that it is.

      The upshot of this, to me, is that now all of these teams put together get to share 1 automatic bid to the NCAA tournament and there will be one additional round of football to increase the likelihood that an undefeated, good team gets beat before it qualifies for a big-money bowl game.

      At least we now get to rekindle that simmering Wyoming vs. Tulsa rivalry from the WAC-16 days that fans have been fervently missing for the past decade.

      MWC should have put together a 12-team conference of public flagship and land-grant universities (similar to the strategy of the SEC & B1G) that covered the Rocky Mountain region’s geographic footprint. and used that to re-work a TV deal, if that was possible under the existing contract.

      East Carolina certainly gets less coverage than Division 1-AA schools in the Hampton Roads media, which is the local media outlet for Eastern North Carolina. Remember the market share that San Jose State has in the bay area anyone?

  2. I don’t have a huge problem with this as long as we strike some sort of minor deal with ESPN to at least get one or two “marquee” games per week on a more noticeable channel (sort of like how the MAC and WAC do it). We should still be able to keep The Mtn and CBS College for the other games. Hopefully this was in the discussions.

    Also nice to have some Texas schools again to help us a little in recruiting. I’m a traveling fan. I was already excited about a trip to Honolulu, but now we could throw in a potential trip to New Orleans and the Atlantic Coast. Should be fun.

    I still think Air Force could be gone in the future, but at least there’s some stability there with the larger number of teams. We’re probably nothing more than a glorified MAC, but there should be some fun games in the future.

  3. The television broadcasts can sort themselves out probably through some kind of regional broadcasting alliance similar to what is going on with Fox Sports and Root networks with Big 10, Big 12 and Pac 12 conferences. The MTN or something similar would continue to televise games for teams in its region. A national cable networks like NBC Sports or CBS Sports could televise games each Saturday starting at noon or even earlier with a game finishing in the evening on the West Coast or Hawaii. Games would be broadcast on Thursdays and Fridays with only a handful of games out of the total number of games being played possibly on a Wednesday. Who knows, ESPN may want to be involved. The ever-evolving Big East isn’t any better in membership and it expects more TV money.

    The issue is that the current television structure for MWC just wasn’t working and wasn’t going to allow the conference to survive as currently structured. If there is the slightest possibility that Wyoming and other schools could get more than the current contract, then this makes some sense.

    Another undercurrent in all of this is scheduling. With the uncertainty facing conference memberships, ensuring that there are schools to fill out a schedule with is enticing, especially in basketball, and it will allow a better structure for other sports.

    The new conference helps assure, at least for some teams, that being part of Division I FBS football will continue for a few more years until the economic landscape is shaken up again.

  4. I think if you add Northern Illinois, Toledo , Troy, Utah State and maybe one other, you could rename the conference either BCS lite or GAC. The great American conference. In my mind, this takes the best remaining teams and puts them in a conference below the so called big boys. Below us, the remaining teams should go to the FCS level. What conference is Houston going to be in?

  5. What happens to bowl tie-ins and NCAA basketball automatic bids? Since it’s a “new league” will these go away? I don’t recall but the first year of the MWC in 98-99; didn’t the NCAA basketball tournament bids go away for a year? Can’t wait to hear how this will affect the mtn. network and the current tv deal, 3rd party rights, etc. What other things can Jim Delany poach from this and innovate into something that actually works? Sounds cynical, but that seems to be what’s happened in the last few years.

    • All good questions John, and right now no one knows. There always has been that that one-year waiting period for a new league in the NCAA hoops tournament. Maybe there will be an exemption there, or will just have to suck it up and take it.

      Don’t expect The Mtn. to make it. Been told my a lot of people folks down there have been told to look for work elsewhere.


  6. I add Utah State for sure. I stay as far away from the San Jose State debacle as I can. If East Carolina and UAB want SJSU in their division, they can have them.

    I really, really want to have a member team from both Utah and Idaho. Neither the Aggies nor the Vandals have the following of the Utes, Cougars or Broncos, but it seems like Utah State and Idaho have a better presence in Utah and Boise than SJSU has in the Bay Area or Tulsa does in Oklahoma. Besides Utah State offers a much better academic fig leaf than SJSU or Boise State even.

  7. Scheduling shouldn’t be an issue as it was in the old 16-team WAC. There is no need for quadrants. Current rivalries aren’t endangered. Teams will only play regular season games in their division continue with out of conference scheduling as they currently do, with the division winner playing the champion from the other division. Teams won’t be traveling on a weekly basis from Florida to Hawaii.

    The potential for gaining more television revenue also is worth the gamble, compared to standing pat and waiting for others to take the initiative.

    Think of this, on a national basis, a game kicks off in Carolina or Florida at noon ET (10 MT time), a second game kicks off in Alabama, Louisiana or Texas at 3 p.m. ET (1 p.m. MT), a third game kicks off at 6 p.m. ET in Colorado or Wyoming (4 p.m. MT) and a fourth game kicks off in Nevada or California at 9 p.m. ET (7 p.m. MT). All of these national C-USA/MWC games are carried by a national sports network with continuous promotion in in-game coverage of other conference games. In the meantime, local games are broadcast on regional networks like they already are. Possibly a late night game in Hawaii or select high-profile game is carried on ESPN2 or ESPNU. In addition, a game is broadcast on each on Thursday and Friday nights. Nothing mentioned is too far out of the realm of want is currently happening.

    Again, the new conference compares favorably with the restructured Big East conference when it comes to television markets and quality of teams. Right now, the Big East has an advantage with bowl game ties, but those bowl games will be shifting to find more lucrative teams that will guarantee fans in the stands.

  8. I don’t quite understand the knee jerk negative reaction to Utah State that I see around the internets when it comes to expansion. They’re not BYUtah, so to me, that’s a good thing.

  9. I think there is an important point being missed here. All of these schools have Athletic Dept budgets in the $30-40 million range. All are good, solid academic institutions that recognize their spot in the realm of D-1 college athletics. They all know that they cannot compete with dollars with the likes of Texas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, USC etc. They can still play them out of conference occasionally & be competitive or win. These institutions are looking for stability & a mini-playoff will bring eyes to the TV sets which means more money! Semi-finals & a Championship game. Not to mention 1 or 2 crossover games out of Division if they want. I personally like it & I think it benefits little Wyoming. I also think Temple & La Tech are 2 schools that will join right away because they also know their place in D-1 athletics & would bring established programs to the table. Even basketball would be great. I am anxiuos to hear more details!

  10. RG,
    I would think that the Presidents know before combining the league that they have to secure a better TV contract than what they have now. Other wise why do it and loose money or get the same cut for each university. My guess is they have a all this worked out for the better. Lets hope so.

    • I hope so too and you’re right about that. But seems like there is a lot of risk. But doing nothing would be worse.


  11. This is far from playing out as a good deal but so is doing nothing or just adding Utah State If the Pokes weren’t already in the conference would any other conference be knocking on our door besides the WAC? Logan is not unlike Laramie. Hard to get to and no large fan base Trust me the world doesn’t care about Utah State not does Salt Lake. residents My only question why can’t this just be a football conference? Maybe a pre season basketball tournament of last year’s 4 top teams. Or all sports invited to a tournment between the to confernces wihich would be called the CUSA/Mtn Association? .

    • What are you talking about? This is about a merge of like Universities, not a basketball tourney or an out of conference FB schedule. It’s about a likely union of two reasonably competitive Conferences. Ok, got that straight now.

  12. North Dakota 12750 North Dakota State 13230
    South Dakota10150 South Dakota State 11995
    Utah State 15099 Weber State 21388
    New Mexico State University New Mexico
    Idaho 11791 Idaho State 12650
    Montana 14207 Montana State 11975
    Northern Colorado Wyoming 12067
    Southern Utah Northern Arizona 22500

  13. Whoops…sent before ready. How about a new Peaks to Praires confenerence. Wyoming will not be able to compete with National $ for travel and salaries, or compete with recruiting in a MWC/CUSA merger. A more regionalized conference is an answer for long term survival, competetive leauges and local following and better chances of success. The fall of the original Mt West has limited our ability to compete on a Major D-1 level indefinitely. Best plan a new route that emphasizes competiveness on a regiional level for all sports. Travel to local games or regional games if you can. Support the Pokes however you can. Go Pokes, down a different road.

    • Have you read any of the bigger details of the merger? The first was, this would be a regional setup with the schools focusing on playing their traditonal football schedules and the east vs. west in the playoffs and championship game. This would eliminate the travel issue and keeps the rivalries entact which is going to kill the BE structure.

      • Playing regional rivalries is good, but there are much bigger issues to be ironed out with all this.


        • Agree completely but one of the major criticisms with this plan has been the loss of traditional rivals, huge travel exspenses and lack of interest in schools like ECU playing Wyoming every year. This at the expense of Wyoming playing Air Force like the Old WAC tried to do.
          If the set up eliviates some of those issues off the bat then it starts the conversions on a much stronger footing.

          • Don’t know how basketball and other sports will work, but it sounds to me like there won’t be a lot of cross-over in divisions in football. A lot of ways scheduling can go with this, but at least what I’m hearing is there won’t be a ton of cross-over. We shall see.


    • “Another concern is the fact that when the WAC went to 16 teams in the mid-1990s, traditional rivalries were threatened.

      Burman said that won’t happen in this new league. Basically, the west teams will play the west teams and east teams will play the east teams.”

      • It is what it is. Try and salvage a deal that works, retain the traditional rivalries in football, bring some competion in to replace SDSU, BYU, and Utah. UTEP and Tulsa are quality Football programs, and the Basketball side of the formula may be equal or better than what we currently have. Quite honestly the whole money issue has transcended the importance of quality education and consideration of the “student athlete”- maybe we can retain that important aspect. Compete with like minded schools, get a decent TV package to allow us in and out of the region to watch our favorite team, and hope that a new Commisioner with some understanding of our interests and allegiance can blend this into a competitive venue. Our sports programs are becoming competitive and on the rise, we will weather this storm and not become a part of the has beens and play useless schools that have no history whatsoever with the great state of Wyo. I don’t want us playing Idaho and Montana State, except on an occasional basis or Utah Valley and Johnson and Wales on a recurring basis. Go Pokes.

  14. If we play eleven game season we could play 8-9 west division rivals depending on how many total teams end up in our conference then play 1 or 2 games against eastern division. We could play 1-2 games a year against either FCS or “big school”. Will all the uncertainty with the restructuring going on, strength in numbers with like minded, similar budgeted programs is not all that bad.
    In basketball, we have home and aways every year with teams in our division. We play other division opponents 1 time a year. That would give us 22 games. Three games in a tournament somewhere and 6 games against regional competition like Denver, UNC, So Dakota, etc. Scheduling would be easy and strength of schedule would be better.

  15. If UTEP moves out west, that leaves one team out west to add to get to 10 and 3 to add to get to 10 in the East. Do you see it going to 20? What is your opinion in Cowboy country of where LATECH comes in? Will we get in at 18, 20?

    • I see it at either 18 or 20. La. Tech would be good for that eastern side. Not sure if adding Utah State or anyone else out in the West really helps this side, but you hear a lot that that may be the case. UTEP would be nice to have on the west side to renew some old rivalries and series’ with them. Not sure if that will work out.


  16. Response to MATT East Carolina You’re right no one out west could care less about them. But the ACC in state schools hate to schedule them and their support was 2008 -42,000: 2009- 41,700 & 2010 – 49,600. About double our attendance and probably represents double interest by TV audences as well. We don’t need them going some where else. Poke, Lobo, and reb are risking less than most teams in trying to make this work. AFA & CSU may leave before this thing plays out in 2013/14. We either become best of the rest or just like the rest.

    • The point wasn’t about ECU or what I think about them if you actually read what I said I would think you would agree but I’ll spell it out for you. The traditions, travel and overall fan interest concerns wouldn’t be the issue everyone keeps pointing out if east plays east and west plays west instead of scheduling Hawaii vs ECU on a yearly basis. Like a couple of posters stated above having a rolling game schedule from east to west every Saturday at least keeps the eye’s on the conference and interest peaked.

      Sorry, where is CSU going to go before the 2013/14 year? I know their new big booster/ad is talking a big game right now but unless he himself is going to finance everything, funding from a low fan interest point doesn’t exactly bring you the longhorms facilities any time soon. The Big12 doesn’t want them where else would they go? The stadium they are talking about building is realistically 5 to 10 years at absolute best down the road, they couldn’t even sell their allotment of tickets the past two years for the CU game so you think the Denver market is theirs, get real. Never know with AF but if they were to jump to the Big 12 you think they would fair much better then say Baylor without RG3? Or would they end up like Army and bail because the talent needed to succeed in those conferences is more than they can dream of getting year in and year out.

      I keep reading stories about how the BE is going to get this great TV contract with the replacement teams they’ve amassed but with no tradition where is the interest? The AQ will be gone because all signs point to it being eliminated all together. The huge travel costs for fans and teams are dooming this experiment from the start.

  17. Matt if you read my statements you would know “SPELL” is not one of my strong suits. Sorry if I offened you. Wasn’t trying to be critical , as your expressed thoughts, about rivaries, travel, costs etc are right on. My view is that the powers to be are moving toward a play off and that MIGHT dictate limiting D-1 to 84 to 96 teams. Mountain strategy needs to be how to avoid not being one of the 24 to 36 to lose D-1 status. TV audence interest might determine who goes and who stays.. Again sorry, In my youth CSU, BYU, DU & Montana were the hot games. We now have only one of those and somehow Poke supporat survives.

  18. This merger means, unfortunately, nothing to anyone outside of the remainig schools. And I believe AFA is next to leave …

    If I was commish of the MWC for a day, I’d go to Provo and give them anything they want to come back to the conference. With BYU, I believe Boise and San Diego State come back. For a 12th team, I’d target SMU (to stay in the Dallas market). Unfortunately, I do not believe the current MWC commish can see farther than his laptop.

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