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Great Big Group of Five Conference Realignment Auction: MWC Results

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A new-look Mountain West from our off-season project.

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl - Idaho v Colorado State Photo by Loren Orr/Getty Images

In case you haven’t followed along with the Great Big Group of Five Conference Realignment Auction, here’s an explainer of the process and a midway update for you to peruse.


It’s finally time.

After three weeks of auctions and trades, your friends here at the Belt and across our SB Nation sister Group of Five blogs Underdog Dynasty and Mountain West Connection have completed the grand experiment. The conferences... have been realigned.

As the originator of the experiment, we’re going to reveal out conference and how it looks first.

Without further ado: The reimagined Mountain West Conference!


The Mountain Conference

Mountain North

  • Boise State
  • EWU
  • NDSU
  • BYU
  • Wyoming
  • Utah State
  • Colorado State

Mountain South

  • San Diego State
  • Fresno State
  • UNLV
  • New Mexico
  • Memphis
  • SMU
  • Nevada

Quick Facts:

Conference’s name: The Mountain Conference

Northernmost school: North Dakota State University

Southernmost school: Southern Methodist University

Easternmost school: Memphis

Westernmost school: Fresno State/San Diego State

Which two teams have the longest driving commute? There are quite a few long distances, but the longest seems to be Eastern Washington to Memphis at 2, 032 miles

Where is your football championship venue? Although I like the idea of Vegas or even Dallas, let’s just go team with best record gets home field.

Where is your basketball championship venue? Let’s keep that in Vegas.

Where is your baseball championship venue? I’ll put baseball in California, San Diego sound nice this time of year.

Who was the [conference] team that you selected as a seed to start the project and why?

Although I was tempted to steal a team from another conference, I went with Boise State as my starter. Geographically, they aren’t the easiest to start a conference. However, they are a top Group of 5 team year in and year out, are a national brand, and an ESPN darling.

What was your game plan coming into this auction? Did you have a strategy or pre-planned budget for teams you sought to go after?

I honestly didn’t know how this would all work. And it certainly took a day or two to get my feet wet. Ideally, the plan was to snag the top teams in the MWC and steal a few from the AAC too. I wanted either Houston or Memphis, figuring that would be a huge purchase, and I was able to get one of them.

Did you have any teams that you wanted to go after in particular which may have been out of the box coming in? Why or why not? Did your plan work?

My initial plan was to get somewhat of a geographical base out west, and I was able to do that. I was fortunate in the sense that all the other conferences are on the east side of the country and so I didn’t have too big of a fight for many schools early on (until the other guys caught on). This allowed for getting quality schools on the cheap and having money for later on (although I still had lots of money left over). I started the bidding with San Diego State and BYU, figuring I would lock up two quality programs with big fan bases who are competitive with Boise State. I then locked up two other solid MWC teams in Fresno State and Colorado State. At that point, I had secured a good top tier of the conference without spending much money and figured I could start taking a few more risks. It was then I started bidding on Houston and eventually potentially travel partners in SMU and Memphis. Those were huge bidding wars, so in the meantime I tried to get other average to above average schools out west in Wyoming, UNLV, Nevada, and Utah State. Thankfully, I ended up with Memphis and SMU, but lost out to Joe on Houston. At this stage in the project, I was pretty content with the top and middle of my new conference. I took New Mexico mainly for their basketball program. Then I made the decision to avoid rather taking bottom-dweller SJSU, bother with the oddity of Air Force, or cause even more travel nightmares with Hawaii. Instead, I took fliers on two promising FCS programs, Eastern Washington and North Dakota State. The thought process was they are consistently successful at their current level and each have more upside than the 3 teams I mentioned not taking. They also fit well geographically; They both aren’t too far from Boise State, which isn’t easy to do, and NDSU is also on the eastern side of the conference with Memphis and SMU (although not necessarily close to either).

What are some key rivalries (created or intact) that you have in your conference? Do you have any rivalries that you missed out on?

Key rivalries in my mind:

  • Boise State vs San Diego State (has produced very good games over the years)
  • Boise State vs BYU (has produced very good games over the years)
  • BYU vs Utah State (in state)
  • Nevada vs UNLV (in-state)
  • Colorado State vs Wyoming (border war)
  • SMU vs Memphis (created, geographical)
  • NDSU vs Wyoming (created, the Bohl Bowl)
  • I would hope a few more develop: BSU vs EWU, EWU vs NDSU,

How will the conference work in terms of scheduling, tie-breakers, postseason play, etc.?

I don’t know if the North/South divisions are the best option, but East/West didn’t match up perfectly either. Nevada. CSU, BYU, Utah State are all pretty close on my imaginary dividing line but what can you do.

For Football, the 7 teams in each division makes it a bit complicated. The SEC has 14 teams as well and they play 8 conference games, 6 in each division, 1 annual cross division rival and rotate the rest. That means other teams play each other every six years. For the sake of simplicity, 8 division games, play 6 division games and rotate through the 7 with 2 each year. It’s not great. One person proposed a Roommate Switch if you want to read that.

Top 2 from each division play in the championship. First tie-breaker would be head to head if they played, but then division record, then net points, then something silly like number of players on roster from Maine, then a coin-flip.

The Basketball tourney would be less complicated. Basically be a 16 team tourney, but give the top two seeds a first round bye, and then be able to function as normal.

What makes your conference unique?

First, this conference offers some of the top Group of 5 schools in the nation all in the same conference. The top tier includes Boise State, SDSU, Memphis, and up until recently BYU. The next tier, Colorado State, Fresno State, Wyoming, and say one of Utah State, Nevada, UNLV depending on the year. The other two are still productive and I’d be intrigued to see what NDSU and EWU do with more conference money and potential recruiting boosts from playing at the FBS level.

Secondly, although the conference is widespread, it has foot-holes in nice areas like California, Texas, the Pacific Northwest, Tennessee, Nevada, and 11 states total.

Honestly I think this conference should be taken on the strength of the teams. Although the downside is some cross-division marquee matchups won’t happen all the time.

Happy with your conference? Overall takeaway from this experiment?

Overall this was lots of fun. I was happy with the teams I got, although I would’ve like to have had Houston (wouldn’t we all?). Since I had so much money left over, I probably should’ve been a bit more aggressive on Houston or a few other potential teams but I got some many western teams for cheap that it didn’t matter much. If I had more time, I’d address the schedule better and maybe try to find a unique and creative scheduling pattern. Maybe in hindsight I should’ve done 12 or 16 teams. However, I would this MWC has the strongest number of teams compared to the other conferences (with Joe’s AAC being the only one who could come close).

Your turn: What are your thoughts on this new MWC? How would you solved this scheduling issue? Leave a comment below.