From where we are now, the middle of February, to June 30th, what do fans of the MW have to look forward to? What little is leaking out right now is cryptic at best. At present, if I had to guess, I would look for an expansion of the alliance from 8/8, as it stands now, to a 10/10 or, less likely, to a 12/12 model, which I would argue is nationally more plausible.
From trying to read between the lines, Bob Stull is getting ready for a switch to the MW. That would mean 9/7 MW/C-USA split. If Temple joins C-USA, the numbers would go to 9/8 but this still does not address the Hawaii partial membership issue. Does a watered down MW/C-USA (at 9/8) have enough inventory to fill media scheduling demand, required for a bigger payout? The addition of UTEP to the MW renews rivalries and cuts down on some travel expenses, while Temple would bring in a part of the large, new market of Philadelphia. Is that enough to spark the interest of a big-time network?
With the departures of SDSU, BSU, Utah and BYU, southern California is gone (the largest MW metro area currently in the MW) and the states of Utah and Idaho. Neither of the two states are top ten in terms of population, but Salt lake City and the outlying areas are significant. From a business prospective, regardless of how lucrative a territory is, one never wants to lose an area of loyal supporters. Memphis was a large metro area, as were the populations of Texas and was lost when Houston and SMU left, although Rice, also in Houston, is still in C-USA. Losing Florida, and more specifically Orlando (UCF) which is still growing at a decent pace, is simply devastating in terms of viewership, alumni support and for network desire to showcase a product (Disney world, parent company of ESPN is in Orlando).
For the alliance to go forward, all of these territories must be replaced, in order to re-establish a regional presence and have a chance of fostering new, viewable rivalries or to renew old ones. In business as well as personal finance, what one can earn is only 50% of the equation, its also about what you spend (revenue - cost = profit). The more sustainable regional rivalries the MW / C-USA alliance has to offer its fans and a TV network, the lower the cost of travel for all sports. This is why the Big West is such a good idea for some: bus rides to and from universities.
Several months ago, I was dead-set against the expansion candidates, because they didn't bring power to the conference (RPI). Things have changed so dramatically, from a numbers perspective, that I have been forced to rethink the entire point. The MW can't go get a Houston/SMU and get AQ: It is solely about money and exposure now. If the MW is to go forward with this alliance, it is in our interest that C-USA gets more viable by adding metro areas for market share and recruiting hot-beds for more talent.
The MW will be forced to add UTEP, USU, SJSU and Idaho, just to regain what it lost (if it choses a plan of territory retention). C-USA would be lucky to have Temple. Beyond that, the conference must re-establish a presence in Florida and get more areas of Texas. If UTEP slides over to the MW, which makes sense for travel and rivalries, then C-USA would need 5 to reach 12: Temple, UNT/UTSA/Texas State, La Tech, FIU/FAMU (La Tech is established and won the WAC, the Texas and Florida teams aren't quite there yet). If ECU/USM get poached, the number from that list simply increases.
Because the MW / C-USA WILL NOT receive an AQ upgrade, according to everything I have read, the strength of teams does not matter like it did. That is a game changer. It is all about network sales, advertising sales, ticket sales, merchandise sales, market penetration and exposure. The Mtn. apparently (from Utahbusiness.com), only hits about 1 million homes. The US has 310 million people, Canada around 35 million. 1 out of 345 is not good: its pathetic. That source said that BYUtv gets into about 60 million homes world wide. 60 out of 345 (or more) is getting there, not as good as prime time ESPN exposure, but not bad.
With competing interests, such as the Big East/West and the B1G/Pac 12 alliance, the MW/C-USA alliance will need to establish itself in the hearts and minds of the people in its regional centers, before the others have a chance to. BSU will take its followers, SDSU will take its followers, but some will be disaffected by the lack of regionality. The loss of basketball and other sports to lesser conferences will turn others off. The MW has to aggressively target these fans. By including USU in Logan, Utah the MW has to work to get the alumni, many of whom live in Salt Lake City, invested in the alliance. By including SJSU, the MW MUST work to get the alumni and the people in the San Francisco area involved (largest potential market). By getting Idaho, the MW must be actively involved in trying to win alumni and others in the greater area to be involved in the success of the university's sports teams. If CT and the boys simply treat this as business as usual and do not work the areas for advertisers and fan retention, the initial good will, that is inevitably generated, will be wasted.
So, what do you all think? 9/9, 10/10, 12/12, more...? We should really care about what the C-USA is doing: we are about to be married to them. We are heavily invested in their success, and they in ours. What teams should each side have? Why? Will the alliance be protected if/when the BE gets raided again by the Big 12, ACC or others? Is there stability in a lower number, if raids are still in the cards (do we like to keep backfilling)? What type of playing schedule should the alliance pursue (all Weekdays/Saturdays, Thursdays/Saturdays, only Saturdays)? Which Network and why? If the alliance is able to get more money, should Hawaii be invited for all sports or should there be one filler team? BTW: Mr. Mauss, if/when this alliance happens, please switch this site over to whatever the name is. SB nation only has one C-USA site: Miner Rush (4, soon to be 3 (Frogs of War is leaving to B12) MW sites). So, what should the conference name be: Big Country, The Alliance, Conference MW USA, The Strategic Alliance, The Also Rans (lol - came from a B1G fan, they have a bunch), The Atlantic - Pacific conference (the AP), Other?