All of the conference realignment that has gone on over the past year and a half has finally killed off a league. According to CBS Sports' Brett McMurphy, the Mountain West and Conference USA will dissolve their leagues to form one league starting in the fall of 2013. Originally the plan was to have a conference alliance for football with over 20 teams, but with the recent events of both the Mountain West and Conference USA losing members to the Big East means a full on merger makes most sense.
Assuming no other teams leave the league will have 15 teams for all sports and 16 for football, and here are the teams:
Southern Miss, Marshall, East Carolina, UAB, Tulsa, Rice, UTEP and Tulane from C-USA and Wyoming, Air Force, Colorado State, UNLV, New Mexico, Fresno State, Nevada and Hawaii (football-only) from the Mountain West
So, what does dissolving mean?
The biggest reason to do this is that it will void any television and media rights contract that the two leagues have. This means that instead of waiting until the contracts of both leagues are up (which I think is 2015) and then combine as a single league they can get a jump start on finding a new television deal. This could also mean the end of The Mtn. channel or at least a rebranding. There have been rumors over the past few weeks that some employees were told the station would be letting go a lot of people after baseball season. Well, that looks to possibly be extended for at least another year.
I know a lot of people have given Craig Thompson a hard time (my self included) on the television deal, but really it was a good thing for the league. One can just look at the contract the Pac-10 had under former commissioner Tom Hansen who had a way worse television deal then the Mountain West, with the exception of a handful of football games on ESPN or ABC. That deal was entirely regional, at least once the Mtn. was on DirecTV games could be seen anywhere.
I feel that the channel should still be in place in some form and be the third-tier for football and basketball and then broadcast a lot of Olympic sports. That model is what I felt that the Mtn. should have been in the first place, I don't know why they did not do what the Big 10 did and broadcast nearly every sport from volleyball, water polo, soccer, swimming or anything else to have live programing; also showing stuff online is key as well.
Also, those complaining about not being on ESPN nee to realize that maybe 20 total football games would be shown if they struck a deal with ESPN. Now, there is a reset button to do things right, or at least improve the television deal.
Sports is one of the very few events that is placed on a DVR, so having a large inventory of live sports programming to sell is key and with 16 teams there will be a lot of it. A lot of people will first scream and want to go back to ESPN. I think the new league should be smart and divide up their assets, and should consider ESPN to broadcast the best games. Then have some deal with Comcast which includes NBC, Fox Sports, CBS and then thirdly the conference television network.
Actually getting on ESPN for the best games each week may not be the best deal, just look what BYU is going through being independent. They are on at 10 p.m. ET and on ESPNU a lot of the times. Also, this new league may have to play on weekdays to fill their ESPN spot. So, actually ESPN may not be the best choice for top tier games; don't get me wrong they should be on ESPN but maybe not for their best games.
Who knows what Comcast is going to do, they did not want to spend as much money on the Pac-12 so we will not know what their plan is until the Big East gets their next television deal which now will be at the same time as this new league. So, Comcast may have their hands involved in both and if the Big East gets to pricey since it is likely that ESPN will over pay for Big East hoops, Comcast maybe a channel for the MWC/C-USA. That would include NBC and NBC Sports and possibly some regional channels they already own.
At this point speculation is running rampant on my part, but the main reason to dissolve is to be able to negotiate a new television deal for the teams.