FanPost

A Possible Plan for a 16-Team Mountain West

If the Mountain West really wants a presence in Texas, then the conference needs to do it right, and jump headfirst into the state.

I am vehemently against the idea of teams on "geographic islands" in conferences (other than Hawaii, which obviously has no choice). I don't like the idea of Houston being in the Mountain West if their nearest neighbor is either UTEP or New Mexico. Houston + SMU would be better, although they would only "have each other" in that scenario. Three teams in the heart of Texas would be even better than just two.

I'm making the following assumptions regarding this expansion plan:

(1) San Diego State returns (stays) for the 2013 season as a full member;

(2) BYU decides not to rejoin the Mountain West;

(3) the current Mountain West schools agree that (A) they want to have a good presence in Texas, (B) they are ok with two football divisions whose teams rarely meet; and (C) they are ok with playing most conference basketball opponents less often than they do now.

Without all of the above, the plan is unlikely to work well.

The WAC did try an expansion plan into Texas in the mid-1990s and failed miserably. Why won't this be the same?

(1) Since Utah and BYU would not be part of this, there is much less disruption to pre-existing rivalries;

(2) there are sensible geographic lines that can be drawn to divide the divisions (namely eastern & western sides of the Rockies);

(3) Hawaii is only part of the Mountain West for football, so Olympic sports travel time & costs to Hawaii are not an issue;

(4) the massive failure of the pod/quadrant system that the WAC created would not be repeated;

(5) there would be a group of Texas teams that are similar in makeup to the existing Mountain West teams, which was not the case with the WAC expansion (more on this later).

Two keys to a new setup:

(1) Football would be set up with two permanent 8-team divisions that essentially operate separately. Each team would have eight conference football games, seven of which would be in the same division (only one crossover conference game). Teams would face seven opponents every single year. Ideally, teams would be allowed to schedule non-division Mountain West opponents separately as "non-conference" games if desired.

(2) Basketball would not use the same divisions as football. It would either use three 5-team geographic divisions (West, North, South) or create a partner system for scheduling, depending on the preferences of the members. An 18-game schedule could be set up with 15 teams so that everyone plays every other team at least once.

These would be your Mountain West football divisions:

West Division:

Hawaii

San Diego State

Fresno State

San Jose State

Nevada

UNLV

Boise State

Utah State

East Division:

Wyoming

Colorado State

Air Force

New Mexico

UTEP

UTSA

North Texas

Houston

Here are some possible questions and answers:


Why North Texas over SMU? (and how is this different from the WAC's eastward expansion?)

North Texas and SMU both have had some success in football over the years, as well as some struggles. SMU was flying high as a national power before its death penalty in the 1980s, but has struggled a lot since then. North Texas has won 24 conference titles in football over the years, but has struggled in the last few. SMU and UNT's stadiums are roughly the same size (both hold just over 30,000), and both stadiums are relatively new (SMU: 2000, UNT: 2011) and have potential for future expansion.

But one big difference between the two is the size of the schools. The more students that attend the school, the larger base of support - both in terms of current students and alumni - the school has to draw on for support. And North Texas wins this fight easily. SMU has 6,221 undergraduates. North Texas has 28,325.

Going back to our problems with the old WAC, let's look at the four "eastern" teams that were chosen: Tulsa, TCU, SMU and Rice. All of these are good schools, but they are also small private shcools, which was is out of character with most of the WAC at the time, and is out of character with most of the current Mountain West. BYU was and is a private school, but it is also a large school with many alumni and a national identity.

Comparing the enrollment of the four TX/OK WAC schools and the four TX schools proposed above, the differences in enrollment are massive.

Current undergraduate enrollment of the four TX/OK WAC schools from the mid-90s:

Tulsa: 3,004

Rice: 3,755

SMU: 6,221

TCU: 8,229

Total: 21,209

Current undergraduate enrollment of the four proposed Texas schools:

UTEP: 18,975

UTSA: 26,268

North Texas: 28,325

Houston: 31,764

Total: 105,332

The four state schools have roughly five times the enrollment of the four private schools that moved to the WAC. This is a significant difference. (As an aside, SMU has apparently expressed a lack of interest in joining the Mountain West Conference, so the UNT vs. SMU argument may not be necessary. But it is important to note the differences between the past WAC expansion and the potential Mountain West expansion into Texas.)

What do each of these Texas schools have to offer?

Houston has had recent football success, having a top-10 ranking and nearly becoming a BCS buster in 2011, before their defeat against Southern Miss in the 2011 C-USA championship game. The men's basketball team has not had great success recently, but does have a rich history, including 19 NCAA tournament appearances and five Final Four appearances. They are also currently in the process of building a new football stadium on campus.

As folks have mentioned, UTSA has a ton of potential. Currently, they are using the Alamodome, but they have a large plan to expand their athletic facilities, including the construction of an on-campus stadium and new basketball arena.

North Texas, as mentioned before, has had football success. It also has improved its facilities in recent years, including the 2011 opening of Apogee Stadium, and has additional plans for other athletic facilities.

UTEP is actually a perfect fit for this new East Division of the Mountain West. It has the El Paso market to itself, with no major FBS programs or pro sports as competition. When folks in town want to see a basketball or a football game, they go watch the Miners, and they support the teams well. Not only would they have their old rivalries restored with their former WAC rivals, but they would also be able to play games in the rest of Texas. The UTEP alumni in San Antonio, Dallas and Houston attending UTEP road games will not only help UTEP but will also help those teams by having more fans attend their games.

The presence of North Texas, UTSA and Houston in the same conference (and same division) helps to strengthen each of them. Each of them is within a five-hour drive from the others. UTEP also helps, given its alumni in the rest of the state, as well as the strengthening of the "Texas identity" of the division.

Why might the Mountain West be better this way?

Each division would have its own strong identity in this plan, anchored in a very large state.

The West Division is composed of teams from Hawaii, California, Nevada, Idaho and Utah. The East Division has teams from Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico and Texas. Both divisions have a strong presence in big recruiting states - 3 teams are in California and 4 teams are in Texas.

Nearly all of the schools are medium-sized or large-sized state institutions. Air Force is the exception, and the smallest school for enrollments, but it is a service academy and not a small private school. That being the case, it has a larger fan base than nearly any small private school out there (BYU is a private school with a large audience, but is definitely not a small school).

12 of the 16 schools have an undergraduate enrollment of at least 17,000. The three state schools with less than that are still over 10,000.

12 of the 16 schools have a 2011 financial endowment of at least $100 million. The three of the state schools with less each have at least $70 million, and the Air Force has the backing of the US government.

For a "quick stats" look at the schools, here is a snapshot of each school (information from US News & World Report):

West Division:

Hawaii

Undergraduate Enrollment: 14,402

Founded: 1907

2011 Endowment: $183 million

USNWR Rank: National Universities, #156

Location: Honolulu, Hawaii

San Diego State

Undergraduate Enrollment: 26,371

Founded: 1897

2011 Endowment: $142 million

USNWR Rank: National Universities, #165

Location: San Diego, California

Fresno State

Undergraduate Enrollment: 19,132

Founded: 1911

2011 Endowment: $119 million

USNWR Rank: Regional Universities (West), #38

Location: Fresno, California

San Jose State

Undergraduate Enrollment: 24,804

Founded: 1857

2011 Endowment: $74 million

USNWR Rank: Regional Universities (West), #38

Location: San Jose, California

Nevada

Undergraduate Enrollment: 14,820

Founded: 1864

2011 Endowment: $228 million

USNWR Rank: National Universities, #189

Location: Reno, Nevada

UNLV

Undergraduate Enrollment: 22,138

Founded: 1957

2011 Endowment: $152 million

USNWR Rank: National Universities, Tier 2

Location: Las Vegas, Nevada

Boise State

Undergraduate Enrollment: 17,369

Founded: 1932

2011 Endowment: $75 million

USNWR Rank: Regional Universities (West), #62

Location: Boise, Idaho

Utah State

Undergraduate Enrollment: 23,279

Founded: 1888

2011 Endowment: $209 million

USNWR Rank: National Universities, #174

Location: Logan, Utah

East Division:

Wyoming

Undergraduate Enrollment: 10,163

Founded: 1886

2011 Endowment: $353 million

USNWR Rank: National Universities, #156

Location: Laramie, Wyoming

Colorado State

Undergraduate Enrollment: 23,261

Founded: 1870

2011 Endowment: $234 million

USNWR Rank: National Universities, #134

Location: Fort Collins, Colorado

Air Force

Undergraduate Enrollment: 4,413

Founded: 1954

2011 Endowment: $56 million

USNWR Rank: National Liberal Arts Colleges, #31

Location: Colorado Springs, Colorado

New Mexico

Undergraduate Enrollment: 22,643

Founded: 1889

2011 Endowment: $349 million

USNWR Rank: National Universities, #179

Location: Albuquerque, New Mexico

UTEP

Undergraduate Enrollment: 18,975

Founded: 1913

2011 Endowment: $174 million

USNWR Rank: National Universities, Tier 2

Location: El Paso, Texas

UTSA

Undergraduate Enrollment: 26,268

Founded: 1969

2011 Endowment: $81 million

USNWR Rank: National Universities, Tier 2

Location: San Antonio, Texas

North Texas

Undergraduate Enrollment: 28,325

Founded: 1890

2011 Endowment: $102 million

USNWR Rank: National Universities, Tier 2

Location: Denton, Texas

Houston

Undergraduate Enrollment: 31,764

Founded: 1927

2011 Endowment: $559 million

USNWR Rank: National Universities, #184

Location: Houston, Texas

Ranked by undergraduate enrollment:

Houston: 31,764

North Texas: 28,325

San Diego State: 26,371

UTSA: 26,268

San Jose State: 24,804

Utah State: 23,279

Colorado State: 23,261

New Mexico: 22,643

UNLV: 22,138

Fresno State: 19,132

UTEP: 18,975

Boise State: 17,369

Nevada: 14,820

Hawaii: 14,402

Wyoming: 10,163

Air Force: 4,413

Ranked by 2011 financial endowment:

Houston: $559 million

Wyoming: $353 million

New Mexico: $349 million

Colorado State: $234 million

Nevada: $228 million

Utah State: $209 million

Hawaii: $183 million

UTEP: $174 million

UNLV: $152 million

San Diego State: $142 million

Fresno State: $119 million

North Texas: $102 million

UTSA: $81 million

Boise State: $75 million

San Jose State: $74 million

Air Force: $56 million

School ranking:

Colorado State

USNWR Rank: National Universities, #134

Wyoming

USNWR Rank: National Universities, #156

Hawaii

USNWR Rank: National Universities, #156

San Diego State

USNWR Rank: National Universities, #165

Utah State

USNWR Rank: National Universities, #174

New Mexico

USNWR Rank: National Universities, #179

Houston

USNWR Rank: National Universities, #184

Nevada

USNWR Rank: National Universities, #189

UNLV

USNWR Rank: National Universities, Tier 2

UTEP

USNWR Rank: National Universities, Tier 2

UTSA

USNWR Rank: National Universities, Tier 2

North Texas

USNWR Rank: National Universities, Tier 2

Air Force

USNWR Rank: National Liberal Arts Colleges, #31

Fresno State

USNWR Rank: Regional Universities (West), #38

San Jose State

USNWR Rank: Regional Universities (West), #38

Boise State

USNWR Rank: Regional Universities (West), #62

For the sake of information, here are similar stats for some other "potentially available" FBS schools in the same region:

BYU

Undergraduate Enrollment: 30,684

Founded: 1875

2011 Endowment: $920 million

USNWR Rank: National Universities, #68

Location: Provo, Utah

SMU

Undergraduate Enrollment: 6,221

Founded: 1911

2011 Endowment: $1.19 billion

USNWR Rank: National Universities, #58

Location: Dallas, Texas

Texas State

Undergraduate Enrollment: 28,959

Founded: 1899

2011 Endowment: $111 million

USNWR Rank: Regional Universities (West), #46

Location: San Marcos, Texas

New Mexico State

Undergraduate Enrollment: 14,495

Founded: 1888

2011 Endowment: $94 million

USNWR Rank: National Universities, #189

Location: Las Cruces, New Mexico

Rice

Undergraduate Enrollment: 3,755

Founded: 1912

2011 Endowment: $4.498 billion

USNWR Rank: National Universities, #17

Location: Houston, Texas

Tulsa

Undergraduate Enrollment: 3,004

Founded: 1894

2011 Endowment: $817 million

USNWR Rank: National Universities, #83

Location: Tulsa, Oklahoma

BYU is obviously the biggest prize because of its historic success and large national following. If the Mountain West expanded to 16 (using the plan above) and BYU later wanted to return as #17, they'd have to be considered ... and perhaps at that time SMU could join the league too.

Assuming that BYU is happy with its Olympic sports in the West Coast Conference and its football independence, they are not an option. But moving into Texas is a potential option. And it doesn't necessarily have to happen immediately. Taking UTEP, UTSA, North Texas and Houston as a group could happen soon or possibly later in the future, after the league has stabilized at 12 teams. Ideally, an expansion like this would coincide with a new conference television agreement.

There are advantages to having a 12-team conference, and there are also advantages to having a 16-team conference with a good Texas presence. What direction the Mountain West decides to go in remains to be seen.

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join Mountain West Connection

You must be a member of Mountain West Connection to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Mountain West Connection. You should read them.

Join Mountain West Connection

You must be a member of Mountain West Connection to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Mountain West Connection. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9341_tracker