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:

UNIVERSITIES ANNOUNCE PLANS TO FORM CONFERENCE

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.”

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More from the MWC on Hawaii

Just got off the phone with Javan Hedlund, associate commissioner for communications for the Mountain West Conference. I asked him if I could talk with Commissioner Craig Thompson about Hawaii joining the league in football only. Thompson was flying back from Las Vegas and even though he didn’t talk to me, Hedlund asked him some questions for me.

I asked why only football for Hawaii? I assumed it was because it was too expensive for both the MWC and Hawaii to have all its teams travel to and from the islands. That was basically the case. Hawaii wanted to be in the Big West in other sports to cut down on travel and costs. All of the Big West schools are in California with relatively easy flights to Los Angeles or San Francisco. Also, the MWC presidents gave Thompson permission to go after Hawaii in football only.

With 10 teams in 2012, will the MWC play a nine-game conference schedule with an unbalanced league slate of four home games and five on the road, or vice versa, every year?

Hedlund said that will be discussed later. I know I am not a fan of unbalanced league schedules like that.

There were some travel subsidies agreed upon to make this move financially sound for both Hawaii and the MWC. What were they?

Hawaii will pay a “prescribed fee” to MWC teams that play at Hawaii each year, but MWC don’t have to do the same when Hawaii comes to their place. Hedlund said Thompson wouldn’t say what that fee is.

Is the MWC done expanding?

I think it is, but Hedlund said Thompson told him the league is “potentially interested but not actively looking” to expand at this time.

One would assume the Hawaii Bowl in Honolulu where Hawaii plays its home games would join the MWC’s list of bowls. That likely will happen but there will have to be some talks. However, that should be a mere formality.With a bowl game in Boise as well, don’t be surprised if bowl MWC bowl ties with the Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth (where TCU is located) and the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La., don’t get re-worked in the future.

Any thoughts on these issues? See my column in Saturday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle www.wyomingnews.com and Laramie Boomerang www.laramieboomerang.com for more.

Texas State game good for UW football

Wyoming completed its 2011 football schedule Tuesday by adding Football Championship Subdivision foe Texas State on Sept. 10.

That gives the Cowboys two FCS opponents to open the season. The week prior they host Weber State.

The downside is UW has to win seven games to become bowl eligible with an additional FCS school on the schedule, compared to six in most years. But UW should win those two games so that shouldn’t make a difference.

UW athletic director Tom Burman needed a sixth home game in 2011 and he got it, but he also did a good job in getting this particular team.

One, he didn’t have to pay through the nose for it. The going rate for most FCS teams these between $250,000-$400,000. It’s not uncommon for some of the bigger schools to pay even more. And this late in the scheduling process, $400,000 and higher would have likely been the price.

Instead, Burman signed a home-and-home with Texas State, which will move to the FBS level and the Western Athletic Conference in 2012. There is no one-time fee. Instead, both teams will exchange $100,000 to help offset each other’s travel expenses, which is common when FBS teams sign home-and-home contracts.

Financially, that made a lot of sense for both schools.

Second, it gives UW a winnable FBS road game when it makes the return trip on Sept. 28, 2013. You can’t take anything for granted on the road, but Texas State will still be in a transition from the FCS level and you would think UW’s chances to win would at least be better than average. With is 2013 season-opener at Nebraska on Aug. 31, a winnable road game in the non-conference portion of the schedule is a good thing.

Third, it gives UW a chance to play in talent-rich Texas. After next season, TCU leaves the Mountain West, leaving the league with no teams in the state where arguably some of the best high-school football players exist. It helps that UW is playing a game in Texas where perhaps some recruits will take notice, and in a state where UW has targed as a key recruiting area.

This won’t mean the Cowboys will get the best players there. It may not mean a darn thing. But it can’t hurt for potential recruits to see the Cowboys play in their home state.

Fourth, UW’s non-conference schedule in 2013 could be complete, depending on the size of the MWC. If the league is at nine teams, which as of today it will be, then UW will need one more game — likely at home. If the league is 10 teams, and it is expected as early as this week that Hawaii will join starting in 2012, then UW’s scheduling is done assuming there will be nine conference games.

It would have been nice for UW to find a home-and-home with a current FBS team that started in Laramie. But getting Texas State in its current situation is the next best thing.

Thoughts?

Here is what UW’s non-conference football schedule looks like:

Sept. 3: Weber State

Sept. 10: Texas State

Sept. 17: at Bowling Green

Sept. 24: Nebraska

Oct. 8: at Utah State

MWC home games: New Mexico, TCU, UNLV

MWC road games: Air Force, Boise State, Colorado State, San Diego State