LOGAN, Utah – After accepting an invitation for its athletic programs to become members of the Mountain West on May 4, 2012, Utah State University officially became a member of the conference as of Monday, July 1, 2013.
Utah State’s football team will be the first squad to play a Mountain West conference game when it plays at Air Force on Saturday, Sept. 7. USU’s volleyball team will begin Mountain West play at home against Boise State on Wednesday, Sept. 18, while USU’s women’s soccer team will begin Mountain West play at Nevada on Thursday, Sept. 27. Utah State’s first Mountain West home football game will be Saturday, Oct. 12, against Boise State.
For the past eight years (2006-13), Utah State has been a member of the Western Athletic Conference and has produced 26 regular season conference team championships, including four in men's basketball, men's outdoor track and field, and women’s soccer; six in men's cross-country; three in men's indoor track and field; two in women's cross-country; and one in football, women's indoor track and field, and volleyball.
“Our student-athletes now have the opportunity to compete and grow on a much larger national stage, while enjoying the benefits of competing with institutions closer in proximity,” said USU Vice President and Director of Athletics Scott Barnes. “Certainly our alumni and friends will have more opportunities to follow their Aggies on the road in league play. We are grateful for the platform the WAC provided us to grow and excel, and we look forward to the new challenges that are just ahead of us in the Mountain West.”
The Mountain West provides a first-class athletic and academic experience for more than 5,100 student-athletes each year. Over the past 14 years, 41 Mountain West student-athletes have earned NCAA Postgraduate Scholarships, and since the league’s inception in 1999, an additional 28 student-athletes have been named MW Scholar-Athlete of the Year and awarded league-sponsored postgraduate scholarships.
The MW has produced 793 All-America selections among its 18 sponsored sports — men’s swimming was discontinued as a conference sport following the 2010-11 season — in the last 14 years, including a league-record 83 All-America honorees in 2010-11. A total of 131 MW student-athletes have also earned Academic All-America accolades in that span. The Mountain West has sent at least 25 teams to NCAA postseason events in each of the past 14 years, capturing three team national championships in women’s cross-country and producing 33 individual national champions in men’s golf, men’s cross-country, and men’s and women’s indoor track and field and outdoor track and field.
Mountain West members have participated in 56 bowl games under the league umbrella, including four appearances in BCS games. The MW has earned 68 postseason bids in men’s basketball, including 38 NCAA tournament appearances and two NIT Final Four berths. MW women’s basketball has tallied 60 postseason slots, including 32 NCAA bids, five Sweet 16 appearances and one Elite Eight berth since 2000. Wyoming won the MW’s first WNIT championship in 2007 with a win over Wisconsin. In women’s volleyball, the MW has had 36 NCAA bids with eight Sweet 16 berths and one Elite Eight appearance. Women’s soccer has earned 27 NCAA bids since 1999, with two Sweet 16 berths and one Elite Eight appearance. MW men’s golf has had at least four representatives in 13 of the last 14 NCAA Golf Regionals, while women’s golf has had at least three teams participate in NCAA Regionals 11 of the last 14 years.
Among its many achievements in 2012-13, the Mountain West sent a record five football teams to bowl games for the sixth consecutive year, and a league-record seven Mountain West men’s basketball teams participated in postseason action, including a record five squads in the NCAA tournament, marking the 13th time in 14 years the conference has sent multiple teams to the Big Dance.
Utah State fields teams in 16 different sports including seven men's sports of basketball, cross-country, football, golf, indoor track and field, outdoor track and field, and tennis. The nine women's sports are basketball, cross-country, gymnastics, indoor track and field, outdoor track and field, soccer, softball, tennis and volleyball. The Mountain West sponsors all of those sports except gymnastics, as well as sponsoring baseball, women's golf, and women's swimming and diving.
San Jose State also joins Utah State as the newest institutions of the now 11-member conference (12 for football). Mountain West membership for the 2013-14 season includes Air Force, Boise State, Colorado State, Fresno State, Nevada, New Mexico, San Diego State, San Jose State, UNLV, Utah State and Wyoming. Hawai'i is also a football-only member of the Mountain West. The Mountain West, which is based in Colorado Springs, Colo., was founded with eight members in 1998.
Utah State and San Jose State will be able to continue their longtime rivalry as both schools were members of the Big West Conference from 1979-1996 and then were reunited in the WAC in 2005. The two programs will be meeting for the 36th time on the football field this fall, while the basketball teams have met 72 times.
Utah State will also renew some old rivalries from its days as a member of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference (1916-37) and the Mountain States/Skyline Conference (1938-61) when it competed against current MW schools Colorado State, New Mexico and Wyoming. All-time, USU and CSU have met 68 times on the gridiron and 83 times on the hardwood. USU and UW have faced one another 63 times in football and 66 times in basketball, while USU and UNM have played one another 23 times in basketball and 18 times in football.
Utah State will also realign with current WAC members Fresno State, Hawai'i and Nevada as USU has played the Bulldogs 27 times in football and 51 times in basketball, the Wolf Pack 22 times in football and 44 times in basketball, and the Warriors 12 times in football.
Another familiar opponent that will return to USU's schedule is UNLV as the two schools were both members of the Big West Conference from 1983-1996 meeting on the basketball court 30 times and on the football field 20 times.
Utah State has been a Division I-A/Bowl Championship Series football playing school in each of its 115 seasons of competition. USU joined the Mountain States Conference in 1938, which evolved into the Skyline Conference until 1961. Utah State then played as a football independent from 1962-77 when the Aggies became members of the Pacific Coast Athletic Association in 1978. The PCAA changed its name to the Big West Conference in 1988. Following the 2000 season when the Big West Conference no longer sponsored football, Utah State spent two years as an independent (2001-02) and two years in the Sun Belt Conference (2003-04) before joining the Western Athletic Conference in 2005.
Utah State's basketball team played in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference from 1918-37 and the Mountain States Conference from 1938-62, followed by independence from 1963-78. USU was then a member of the PCAA/Big West Conference from 1979-2005 before joining the WAC for the 2005-06 season.
Utah State football has played in eight bowl games, winning the 1993 Las Vegas Bowl and the 2012 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, while Utah State men's basketball has appeared in the NCAA tournament 20 times, reaching the Regional Finals in 1970.
Utah State's men's basketball program is one of just five schools nationally to record 14-straight 21 wins seasons joining Duke, Gonzaga, Kansas and Syracuse, and has advanced to 13 postseasons in the last 14 years. USU's women's basketball team has advanced to postseason play in each of the last three years, participating in the Women's National Invitational Tournament twice and the Women’s Basketball Invitational once, while its women's soccer program advanced to its second-straight NCAA Tournament in 2012.
Utah State's success has not been limited to the playing fields as the Aggies have annually been among the league leaders in academic all-conference selections. During the 2012-13 academic year, Utah State led the WAC with 209 academic all-conference honorees, and USU has led its league in academic all-conference recipients in 14 of the past 15 years including in each of its eight years in the WAC.
Utah State also has a Graduation Success Rate of 82 percent and its 400-plus student-athletes have a cumulative grade-point average of 3.17.
Mountain West quick facts
Founded: July 1, 1999
Members for the 2013-14 academic year: Air Force, Boise State, Colorado State, Fresno State, Hawai'i (football only), Nevada, New Mexico, San Diego State, San Jose State, UNLV, Utah State, Wyoming
Team NCAA Championships: 3
Individual NCAA Championships: 33
NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship winners: 41
Academic All-America selections: 131
All-America selections: 793
Quotes from USU coaches about the move to the MW
Matt Wells, Utah State head football coach
“It is a tremendous opportunity for us as a football program to join the Mountain West. It is a conference I have been involved in for several years throughout my coaching career here at Utah State and at Tulsa and New Mexico. I have a tremendous amount of respect for the teams in the Mountain West, both those that are remaining from the old alignment as well as the former WAC teams. It is an incredible opportunity for us to compete at a high level.”
Stew Morrill, Utah State head men's basketball coach
“This is a great day for Utah State and an exciting and challenging move for our programs. President Stan Albrecht and Director of Athletics Scott Barnes deserve lots of props for their efforts that made this move possible. In basketball, we will be competing in a high-level conference with very good teams. A high level of commitment will be necessary by all Aggies to make this step up successful. It's certainly been an amazing journey from the Big West to the WAC and now to the Mountain West.”
Jerry Finkbeiner, Utah State head women's basketball coach
“I have always thought of the Mountain West as one of the top women's basketball conferences in the country. There is a lot of tradition and a lot of excellence in the Mountain West, and I think it will do nothing but enhance our program at Utah State and the direction in which the program is evolving in all areas. It is a progressive step up in all areas, and I look forward to the challenges and the rewards that come with that.”
Grayson DuBose, Utah State head women's volleyball coach
“Leaving the WAC is bittersweet due to the accomplishments we achieved. However, we look forward to being a part of the Mountain West and adding to their volleyball success, and it is a conference that has continued to raise its volleyball profile. As players and a staff, we are excited about the challenge of competing in the Mountain West.”
Heather Cairns, Utah State head women's soccer coach1 comment on this story
“I am looking forward to the competitive environment in the Mountain West. It is a challenging soccer conference with high quality opponents top to bottom and it will be exciting to rejoin some of our old rivals as well as the opportunity to begin to establish new ones.”
Gregg Gensel, Utah State men's and women's head cross-country/track and field coach
“Going into the Mountain West is a step in the right direction for Aggie sports as a whole, especially track and field due to the level of competition within that conference. The familiarity we already have with the regionally located schools currently competing in the Mountain West will bring more excitement to both our student-athletes and fans.”
Doug Hoffman is the assistant athletic director for Utah State University Athletic Media Relations.