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Dick Harmon: BYU, Utah's old league going coastal in Mountain West-Conference USA merger

Published: Monday, Feb. 13 2012 6:05 p.m. MST

BYU mascot Cosmo leads the team onto the field before the start of the Armed Forces Bowl NCAA college football game against Tulsa, Friday, Dec. 30, 2011, in Dallas. BYU won 24-21.

John F. Rhodes, AP

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It's tough to guess what the Mountain West and Conference USA expected out of Monday's announcement that they would officially merge and create a giant league.

But one thing is certain, within a few minutes of the news, people from coast to coast made fun of it.

It especially got nasty reviews from folks who'd once had a boat floating in the Mountain West. Even some current fans made a little fun of the idea there would be a league in the NCAA that would stretch from Honolulu to East Carolina.

"We have been frustrated with the lack of stability of our conference," UNLV president Neal Smatresk said Monday.

"Members of both conferences have been siphoned off in this national athletic conference plundering movement. We need to stabilize our conferences and form an entity we think recommits to the high values of student athletic competition. So we ... are going to take a high-road approach to how college athletics are run."

In other words, this league is born of victimhood and it'll plough ahead as best it can.

In reality, the two leagues currently struggle in gaining notoriety because their ability to chisel out attractive TV contracts is tougher than turning dirt into oil. When Utah and BYU left the Mountain West, the league took a big hit in TV subscriptions and commercial revenue. When TCU and Boise State bolted, it lost football credibility.

The fall out is kind of sad.

All afternoon on Twitter, message boards and other places across the Internet, the broad, new league got torched.

"It's 4,864 miles between ECU and Hawaii, further than it is between ECU and London, England," tweeted CBSSports.com's Bryan Fischer.

Yahoo's Pat Forde tweeted, "We have a new winner in geographical silliness: Hawaii at East Carolina. Or vice versa. Nice road trip."

Smatresk said the model the new league would work at would set up "regional" schedules and such a disparity in travel would be avoided.

I asked my followers on Twitter to post their suggested names for this new league, which will be 16 to 18 teams and could grow as large as 22 or 24.

The feedback was brutal.

Here are a few of the candidates for a title for the new league.

The Big Ugly.

General Conference.

The Junkyard.

The Leftovers.

Outcasts.

The Lonely Hearts Club.

The Redheaded Stepchild.

From the Mountains, to the Prairies, to the Ocean, White with Foam.

Everybody Else Conference.

Diddly Techs.

SuperConference USA.

Pick Me Conference.

Who Dat Conference.

The Great American Conference.

Coast, Plains and Mountains Conference.

The Little Giants.

Coast to Coast Conference.

Left Behind Conference.

At Least We're not the WAC Conference.

Stepping Stone Athletic Conference.

The Expendables Conference.

Globex Conference.

The Kardashian Conference.

The TransAmerica League.

The Big Foot Conference.

Skymiles Athletic Conference.

Stepping Stone Athletic Conference.

CBS Sports' columnist Brett McMurphy tweeted: "To cut down on travel in the new C-USA/MWC league, some games will be played on the moon."

UNLV's Smatresk said the following in a prepared statement:

"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."

There is viewership, then there is viewership.

On Monday, nobody talked about the current MWC television contract with Comcast, part-owner in The Mtn., a regional network that has struggled to catch on and really took a hit when the Utah-based schools departed this past year.

Some speculate, by creating a new conference, the MWC can shed itself of this TV deal and negotiate a better one with a more recognized and available brand.

Interesting stuff.

Bottom line? This is more step forward/backward in what will become known as the era of the greatest change in college football history.

Dick Harmon, Deseret News sports columnist, can be found on Twitter as Harmonwrites and can be contacted at dharmon@desnews.com.

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