There's been a lot of talk lately about expanding the Mountain West Conference to include Boise State or perhaps BSU and two other schools to make a 12-team conference with two divisions.
Mountain West Conference officials I talked to Saturday said nothing is imminent as far as they know. Of course, they're not the ones who make such decisions. It's up to the nine presidents of the member schools to decide if they want to expand the league.
I've got another idea. Instead of expanding, how about contracting the conference and switching a few schools in and out?
If we're thinking football, which is the most important factor for conferences these days because of the money implications, let's start with the four currently ranked schools, Utah, BYU, TCU and Boise State. Next, you would want to add Houston, another highly ranked football school, which could give TCU some company in Texas; and Air Force, which beats most everyone every year but BYU, Utah and TCU.
To round out the league, let's add UNLV and San Diego State, because of their locations and potential to be good programs. (I know we've been waiting a long time, but sooner or later those schools have to become decent, don't they?)
Utah, BYU, TCU, Houston, Boise State, Air Force, UNLV and San Diego State would make a solid eight-school league. Even if UNLV and San Diego State never get much better in football, both are solid basketball schools that would make up for having Air Force and TCU, two non-powers in basketball, in the league.
The advantages to such a league would be many.
The league would have a much better chance to join the other six BCS conferences by adding a couple of strong football schools and getting rid of some of the deadwood.
With eight teams, each school would receive a bigger share of BCS and NCAA Tournament money.
The travel partners would line up pretty well with BYU-Utah, UNLV-San Diego State and TCU-Houston with only the Boise State-Air Force partnership not being geographically convenient. Having travel partners would save a bunch of money by eliminating all of the single-game trips in every sport but football.
But what about New Mexico, Colorado State and Wyoming, you say?
Sure, we'd feel bad for those three schools. But tell me what those three bring to the league football-wise or basketball-wise.
New Mexico hasn't won a football title since 1964, if you can believe it. Wyoming has had its moments over the years, but has struggled lately with one winning season in the past decade. Colorado State was a league power back in the 1990s, but has been mediocre for several years.
As for basketball, do you know how many basketball titles the Lobos have won over the past 30 years? Two. Before last year's co-championship, the last New Mexico title was in 1994.
Wyoming has won two basketball titles in the past 20 years. Colorado State has been mostly mediocre in basketball since the days of Jim Williams with one league title since 1990.
The new MWC would instantly become one of the top five football conferences in the country, supplanting the Big East and ACC and being on par with the Big 12, if not better. Looking at this year's rankings, the new MWC would have five Top 25 schools, more than any other league in the country (I understand there would be more losses for these schools in league play).
As good as it sounds, it would be hard to do. How do you tell three of your fellow conference members to take a hike?
It's not like you can kick teams out, even though that's basically what happened in 1998 when the Mountain West Conference was formed when eight schools broke away from the unwieldly 16-team WAC.
Because money is the so important for collegiate programs these days, I think the MWC is going to do something in the next year or two.
The obvious change is to grab Boise and make a 10-team league. If the MWC does go to 12, I would add is Nevada with its solid basketball program and an up-and-coming football program. For the 12th team, you'd have to look east and try to get either Houston or Tulsa, which has a solid athletic program.
That would give you a 12-team league with a natural division split with logical travel partners in BYU-Utah, Boise State-Nevada, UNLV-San Diego State in the West Division and TCU-Houston/Tulsa, Wyoming-Colorado State and Air Force-New Mexico in the East.
If eight isn't possible, then the MWC should go to 10 or 12. The sooner the better.
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