Craig Thompson, the Mountain West's one and only conference commissioner is stepping down after 24 years. Under Thompsons leadership the Mountain West became one of the premier group of five conferences. With teams like Utah, TCU, Boise State, and BYU playing for BCS/NY6 bowls and regularly being ranked and taking down the goliaths of college football.
With all that said many would say that the second half of Thompsons tenure left something to be desired. As the college football landscape quickly changed, Thompson seemed happy to let every other conference shuffle to strengthen themselves while He sat on his hands and watched. Thompson has never been accused of being proactive whether it be in conference realignment or the promotion of his conference and teams. This attitude has left the Mountain West on the outside looking in for the past 8 seasons and has lost the MWC the prestigious respect it once had. He has seen 3 of his best teams walk and almost lost 2 others. He has watched the best available teams be snatched up by our Group of 5 rivals as they strengthen their positions and the MWC dwindles or at least stands pat.
To say Thompson will be missed is simply an untrue statement as many felt he had tired out his welcome and will be refreshed by a new leader.
I believe Thompson deserves a big thanks as well as a hasta la vista!
Now That Thompson is gone, let's talk about who's next!
Aresco has been stellar as the AAC commissioner forming the AAC into one of if not the top G5 conference in the country. He is not shy about promoting his teams and he has shown he is willing to be proactive in conference realignment. Many laugh off his famous "Power6" motto, however I believe it is his eccentric and blunt marketing that gave his conference teams the edge over the mountain west for so many years. Now that his 3 best teams have left might the Mountainous pastures out west look a little bit greener to him?
Gill has been the SunBelt Commisioner since 2019 and has made a splash. Although some may see him as riding Karl Bensons success, I believe he will be just as if not more successful. Last offseason when conference realignment shifted again Gill went on the offensive. Although many still viewed the Sunbelt as a bottom feeder, Gill shocked the college football world by snatching up several of C-USA's top teams in Marshall, Southern Miss, and Old Dominion. Add the addition of FCS powerhouse James Madison and Gill cemented the Sun Belt as a contender.
Byrne would be an interesting possible candidate, despite having no experience as a conference commissioner. He also was linked with both the Pac-12 and Big12 jobs, previously working with the Arizona Wildcats as their athletic director. Byrne's entire career has been either spent on the West Coast or within the SEC and would be taking on a new challenge in the MWC.
Mullens of the Oregon Ducks most recently served on the College Football committee as the head chairman. Like Byrne he has no commissioner experience but, He has presided over the most successful period in Oregon history and is familiar with the west coast.
Rhoades has found success at Baylor. Although the Baylor Bears gave their athletic director a lengthy contract extension to keep him in Waco, Rhoades could be looking for his next challenge as he was listed as a candidate for the Big12 job. Also his close relationship With Boise State AD Jeremiah Dicky could be enough to convince him to apply.
The MWC may also try to follow in the steps of the Big12 and Pac12 and look for someone from the entertainment industry.
Who do you think should lead the MWC next?