Utah State All Set to Join the Mountain West Conference

Romney Stadium, Logan, Utah - Russ Isabella-US PRESSWIRE

The Aggies will join the MWC on July 1 and Utah State’s athletic director Scott Barnes couldn’t be happier.

When Utah State officially leaves the Western Athletic Conference on July 1, they will join the Mountain West Conference along with San Jose State as their new league's 11th and 12th members. The Utah State Aggies are destined for the Mountain Division to play alongside Air Force, Boise State, Wyoming, Colorado State, and New Mexico, where they already have a history with Boise State as well as with most of the other teams in the West Division. Playing teams in their same geographic region like Wyoming, Colorado State, and Air Force are bound to develop into great rivalries.

Utah State AD Scott Barnes has done all he can to get the school ready for its MWC debut by guiding the university forward with a number of athletic upgrades and building projects. There is a new strength and conditioning center about to open, a new basketball and volleyball facility, a conversion of the old weight room into state-of-the-art locker rooms for women’s sports, and an expansion of the seats in the south end zone of Romney Stadium (25,513 seats). Those seats will be needed because last season the Utah State Aggies (10-2) averaged 20,054 fans per game, an increase of 2,585 over 2011. That growing football attendance ranked them #20 nationally among FBS schools.

Like any good athletic director Barnes wants the Aggies to be competitive in their new conference. Utah State teams have won twelve conference championships in four different conferences during their football history, and last year as WAC champions won the 2012 Idaho Potato Bowl. But Aggie athletics is dominated by the men's basketball team, not football. And those teams are consistently seen as one of the better hoops programs in the nation. The Dee Glen Smith Spectrum has been called one of the nation's top 5 loudest and most difficult places for opposing basketball teams to play.

Besides their football and basketball successes, over the past five years they have won WAC championships in indoor track (2008), outdoor track (2007, 2009) and several times in cross country. Women's teams have also excelled with conference championships in cross country (2006, 2008) and in women's soccer (2008).

In support of those teams Barnes has moved quickly and efficiently to stabilize the Aggies coaching staffs in his programs. In football, offensive coordinator Matt Wells was hired as the school's head coach to replace Gary Andersen who left in December for a gig at Wisconsin. And just a few days ago Sean McInerney was named head women's tennis coach.

"Certainly, when we look in the mirror …,” Barnes told Brad Rock of the Desert News when asked about the move to the MWC, “we’re thankful and excited and can’t wait to have a chance to compete for championships on this new level and platform.”

The Mountain West Conference is glad to have the Aggies with them as well. The Utah State student body of 28,796 students support their sports programs with good turnouts. And MWC teams will be happy to note that Logan, Utah, at 4,534 feet in elevation, adds one other school in the Mountain Division where teams from the West Division won’t need to bring an oxygen mask or find themselves at risk of altitude sickness.

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