The Mountain West Conference will never be confused with being a peer amongst the SEC, Pac-12, Big Ten or Big 12 in football, and for the most part basketball despite it being closer overall. The split between the Big East and American Athletic Conference put the AAC in the other group of five conferences that do not get an automatic bid to a big money bowl game, similar to the Mountain West and others.
Well, American commissioner Mike Aresco plans on offering full cost of attendance scholarships, and wants to continue to act like it is a power league.
"As a conference, we've already committed to providing a full cost of attendance stipend if that's passed," he told media in Hartford shortly before UConn faced Memphis at home. "Whatever it ends up being, whether it's a fixed amount, we've committed as a conference that we're going to do it."
The American has the teams to back up wanting to provide this full cost of scholarship. They had Central Florida in the Fiesta Bowl, and won, plus they currently have half of their teams ranked in latest top 25 rankings. The American is slightly ahead of the Mountain West in television revenue, but they are still miles behind the rest of the power five leagues.
The American, at this point, is acting like a major conference with a BCS bowl win and having multiple teams ranked. The Mountain West ended the football season with no one ranked and the league's champion, Fresno State, getting embarrassed against USC. Basketball season is not over yet but this league is nothing like last year's conference which boasted the nation's best RPI and had five teams make the NCAA tournament.
Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson needs to find a way to keep pace with the American if that league is going to offer a stipend to student-athletes. If the Mountain West wants to become the best group of five conferences and even with the five major conferences they need to be able to afford some sort of stipend to its players, because the power leagues are in the near future going to be able to offer something to its student-athletes.