FORT WORTH, Texas — Mountain West Conference commissioner Craig Thompson takes great pride in the fact that ESPN's "College GameDay" program has been broadcast from three league venues in the past four weeks.
"it's great. It's part of our continued growth and development," he said during Saturday's show before the Utah-TCU game. "We hope to be a mainstay on the college football scene for years to come and make even a bigger presence."
ESPN's Chris Fowler, who also hosted earlier league stops at BYU and Air Force, acknowledged the MWC is making a splash. "GameDay" visits to three campuses in one conference in a four-week span, he added, is something he's not sure has ever happened.
"It's a reflection of where the programs are. Two times — the game at Provo and the game (here) — it was the biggest game of the weekend," Fowler said. "So it was pretty simple. We have a simple formula."
ESPN analyst Desmond Howard said the MWC is deserving of the attention.
"This is a tribute to how well they're playing football. I think they've come a long way and they should be rewarded for what they do on the field," he explained. "I'm happy to be here. This is a great venue, an excellent turnout and the hospitality couldn't be better."
Thompson considers it "a great storyline" and "evolutionary" as the conference moves into it's 11th year of competition.
The league's relationship with former partner ESPN, apparently, isn't as damaged as some folks may have thought.
"They're in business, too. Just because we're not under contract for our television doesn't mean they're going to ignore (us)," Thompson said. "They are first and foremost a news entity and they're covering major college football stories. The Mountain West is one of them. TCU is one of them — Utah, BYU, the whole league."
It's a simple matter, he added.
"Play quality opponents and win games," said Thompson, who is especially pleased that the MWC has three teams in the top 25 for the second consecutive season.
SIGN LANGUAGE: A sampling of signs displayed by TCU fans during ESPN's "College GameDay" show Saturday morning.
"We pity Salt Lake City"
"TCU D eats Utah QBs"
"We ref-UTE your attempt to Wynn"
"Not so fast my friends, TCU wins big"
"Texas Championship University"
Another sign hanging from a nearby dormitory read: "Ssshhh, I'm trying to study"
BRONCO CONNECTION: Newly named TCU Director of Athletics Chris Del Conte — hired on Oct. 31 — has a prior connection to the MWC. Del Conte was a roommate of BYU football coach Bronco Mendenhall when both were students at Oregon State. Del Conte was on the track team, Mendenhall the football team. But when OSU dropped track, Del Conte moved on. He received a bachelor's of arts degree in sociology from the University of California, Santa Barbara and a master's of education, administration and supervision, from Washington State University.
EXTRA POINTS: Utah defensive end Derrick Shelby left the game in the first half with a knee injury and did not return ... Representatives from the Fiesta, Orange, Rose, Armed Forces and Las Vegas bowls attended the game ... Scouts from the NFL's Dallas Cowboys and Tennessee Titans were also in attendance ... National media included the New York Times and ESPN.com ... TCU wore its new Nike Pro Combat uniforms for the first time.
Contributing: Brad Rock