In case you have been living under a rock, College Football is in another round of conference realignment, which is everyone’s least favorite game that they can’t stop watching. So far, the Mountain West has largely been shut out of this cycle, and that isn’t good. While they didn’t lose any teams, they haven’t been involved in any rumors about adding teams either, which is the problem. This post will examine how the Mountain West Conference has benefitted and hurt so far and now needs to make a big splash going forward.
Alex had a similar idea as I did and wrote an excellent piece yesterday. He took a basketball angle (which makes sense, being our basketball guy and all), and I wholeheartedly agree with everything he wrote. Rather than recreate his post, I instead want to focus on why the Mountain West needs to do something or else risk becoming lost in the shuffle (once again). But before you read the rest of this post, seriously, read his post.
Recap of the news so far.
Texas and Oklahoma shocked the college football world and announced they were going to the SEC.
Speculation ran amok as theories ranged from the Big 12 poaching the AAC, the AAC poaching the Big 12, the MWC poaching one or both of them, the MWC being poached by one or both of them, or the PAC12 merging with or poaching the Big 12.
For a while, nothing happened. Then, the Big 12 announced there were going to stay together and expand. Again, lots of rumors swirled around as to which teams were or were not going. Quickly the dust settled, and four of the most likely six teams were announced as future Big 12 additions. The eventual new Power 5 teams are: BYU, Cincinnati, Houston, and UCF.
How the Mountain West has benefitted.
Mainly, by not being poached.
From an individual team perspective, not getting selected by the Big 12 was a loss. Boise State was passed over again, as were other teams. Fans of the Broncos, as well as Colorado State, San Diego State, and UNLV, who were all convinced their teams would be attractive to the Big 12, were disappointed (plus New Mexico fans saying they would be great for the PAC12).
However, from the perspective of the conference, keeping all 12 football-playing teams is a major victory, and now that the conference is stabilized, it should take steps to strengthen itself.
How the Mountain West has been hurt.
Short answer: they did not add any teams.
While they weren’t really expected to, and still could, it still goes down as a swing and a miss in round one of this chaos.
Then head guy Craig Thompson made an unprompted boast he has yet to back up. During the last round of realignment, he claimed that he was set to add four Big 12 members to the Mountain West before they decided to stay in the conference. The assumption was he said this to make himself, and the MWC said good, but it actually did the opposite. First of all, he didn’t get the job done last time. Secondly, no one knew about that until he said something, and by saying something, he only raised expectations to add teams this time around, which he has not done (at this point). Thompson backed himself into a corner, divulging answers to questions no one was asking, trying to sound important and incriminating himself in the process.
He was also a driving force of playoff expansion, which is now in jeopardy or at least on pause until realignment slows down.
What are the potential outcomes for the Mountain West going forward?
Boise State (and Memphis) are still being rumored to go to the Big 12 after Texas and Oklahoma mean. While this is by no means a sure thing, the conference should do everything in its power to prevent it. Which means...
Adding two teams.
Memphis and SMU. SMU and Tulsa. Something.
Adding four teams.
Expand with two football teams and two non-football teams like Gonzaga and St. Marys. Become the best non-P5 conference in both football and basketball. Do something.
Avoid this at all costs. Unfortunately, the Mountain West has become known for being reactive and waiting to see what everyone else does before making a move. They can not afford to do so this time around.
The bottom line is, it is well past time for the Mountain West to become the aggressor. It is not a stretch to imagine Thompson and the conference are working behind the scenes. But until they get something done, they do not deserve the benefit of the doubt. Maintaining the status quo will not help the conference remain relevant. Losing teams will only make matters worse. The only option is to add.
Preferably, they should strengthen their own conference by weakening their rival conference, the American Athletic. Also, seek to fortify itself as a basketball conference works by adding Gonzaga and St. Mary. Those teams can’t be happy BYU is pulling out of their conference, so make them an attractive offer to play against the likes of Utah State, SDSU, Colorado State, and others in what could easily become one of the six strongest MBB conferences in the nation.
The Mountain West has already lost the biggest battle to date. That wasn’t a surprise, although it was disheartening. But their most important battle is now the next one. They are now at a crossroads of relevancy and will ultimately be judged by their action or lack of action over the next few years. Thompson set the conference up to be in a great position at the perfect time by signing a short-term media rights deal which is set to expire right around the time they can add teams. It could set up the promise of a bigger payday as they court teams.
The MWC isn’t going to win the realignment war; the SEC claimed that crown. They didn’t win this past realignment battle; the Big 12 did. However, the Mountain West has to win this upcoming realignment fight before the AAC or another conference does it first.