Welcome to a new short summer series here at MWCConnection. I had the thought a few weeks ago that myself and others on the team here have formed thoughts and opinions over the years from following and writing about the Mountain West. But what does an “outsider” think about the Mountain West? So on Thursdays going forward, hear from different bloggers, reporters, coaches, and others as we ask them a few questions to get their perspective on the MWC. Enjoy.
Today’s post features: David Gardner
Can you introduce yourself and where you fit in the world of sports?
I’m David Gardner. I spent my 20s working as an editor at Sports Illustrated and then as a staff writer at B/R Mag. Now I do some freelance writing and don’t have to apologize as often for my fandom of the Florida Gators.
How often do you watch Mountain West sports?
I generally watch a lot more college basketball than college football. During the fall, I do have an annual tradition of staying up late for the first Hawaii game, but I don’t make appointment viewing out of many other Mountain West football games. I do, however, really enjoy watching a lot of teams in the conference play basketball. In the last few years, it’s been mostly San Diego State, but there’s a storied history with a few of these programs, and a personal connection to others — like how former Gators assistant Larry Shyatt led Wyoming for a few years in the 2010s.
Can you name all 12 football-playing schools (without looking it up)?
“Can you name all 12 football-playing schools” ... YES, ABSOLUTELY ... “(without looking it up)” ... *closes Google tab*
Here we go:
San Diego State
San Jose State
(Definitely at least one more State here)
(Definitely at least one more State that borders Arizona here)
OH! COLORADO STATE
AND FRESNO STATE* which is not a state
(I’m pretty sure I’m missing one more State)
(And one non-State team)
(Both of these teams should be eliminated from the conference)
Is there one sport where you think the conference is known for or excels in?
f you were a college football fan in the early 2000s, the memories of those trick-play running, big-bowl crashing Boise State teams really stand out. It’s a shame that San Diego State’s Cinderella season was cut short by COVID, because I think they really could have made a Final Four run. I hate to say that I don’t watch a lot of non-revenue sports, so my deepest apologies to any world-class track and field teams at any of these schools.
What do you think are the strengths of the conference and what do you perceive as the growth areas?
I think the strengths are the major men’s sports of basketball and football. It’s a testament to the conference that it’s perpetually involved in realignment rumors, going all the way back to the BCS. However, as an outsider to the conference, I don’t often hear about the non-revenue sports or women’s sports regularly, and I wonder whether that’s a priority problem for the conferences or for me.
What do you think the Mountain West needs to improve or change in order to be more competitive?
If hired as Commissioner — and I assume this has all been a front to interview me for the position — I would implement a 12-point plan to make the Mountain West a perennial powerhouse. Now of course, I am not going to give you all 12 points right now! But I’ll give you two points! The first would be to ditch the divisions in football and ensure that the two best teams in the conference are competing for the title at the end of the season. The second would be to continue to increase inter-conference competition with leagues like the Pac-12 in basketball. That’s easier said than done, though, because most major conference schools aren’t looking for that San Diego State smoke.