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Mountain West Armchair Commissioner: Matt

Continuing our ongoing Summer Series!

Mountain West

As you know, the summer can often be devoid of content, especially in May, June, and the first half of July until Media Days. For the past few years, we have tried to do a weekly summer series to mitigate some of that. In 2021, it was the Outside Look series, and last year we learned more about our team in the Why I Write Series. This year, I came up with an idea I’m calling Armchair Commissioner.

Basically, each writer is put in charge of the conference and gets to write about decisions they would make on a number of important topics that a commissioner would face running the Mountain West. I am basing this idea on a blog site I enjoy and something they do every offseason called the Sox Machine Offseason Plan Project.

Note: None of us are trying to replace new Mountain West commissioner Gloria Nevarez, nor should this exercise be seen as a critique of her in any way.

Instead, this is a practice to hear some thoughts on the big issues that the conference faces in the near or long-term future.

Not only will you get to read thoughts from different staff writers each week, but all of you will have the opportunity to join in on the fun by contributing too in the fan post section of the site.

What is your opening address about the state of the conference at media days?

We are at a time where different forms of fluctuation have purged college athletics, especially with the transfer portal, realignment and NIL. The Mountain West is in a good position off field and on the field, including one program competing for a national title on college basketball’s biggest stage mere months ago for the first time in Mountain West history. As we continue to market and enhance our conference’s standing nationwide, we must understand that we enter a crucial time in our conference’s history. And we hope our student-athletes control what they can control as we due our due diligence to make this the best conference in America.

What are some innovative ways you would attempt to increase revenue for the conference?

There are myriad ways and companies to enhance revenue, most from big endorsements, But betting across all sports are becoming more popular, even in college. So I would try to form a sponsorship with a big sportsbook that could be linked with promos or deals that the conference could get a chunk of revenue.

What Olympic sports would you want to prioritize/build up?

Due to its size and popularity as an Olympic sport, and with its growing notoriety in-conference, I would try to prioritize building up Track-and-Field first. The Mountain West had four women’s outdoor track and field teams placed inside the final top 70. Golf was also one of the conference’s most successful sports last season while softball and swim and dive are both reasonable options as well.

What two committees would you join and why (pick from the list below)?

  • Transformation committee
  • Committee on Academics
  • Student-Athlete Advisory Committee
  • Committee on Infractions
  • Oversight Committee
  • Strategic Vision and Planning Committee
  • Student-Athlete Experience Committee

Student-Athlete Advisory Committee: The voices of our student-athletes, whose lives become very complicated by being intertwined with athletic performance plus academics, matter more than anything.

Transformation Committee: I want to help modernize college athletics to make rules and regulations more beneficial for our leaders, programs and student-athletes in this hectic time.

Protected Games for each football team: What games would you protect for every team when the new football schedule comes out for the 2026 season? (Current protected games for reference)

  • Air Force: Colorado State and Hawai’i
  • Boise State: Nevada and Fresno State
  • Colorado State: Air Force and Wyoming
  • Fresno State: San Jose State and Boise State
  • Hawai’i: New Mexico and Air Force
  • Nevada: Boise State and UNLV
  • New Mexico: Hawai’i and Utah State
  • San Diego State: UNLV and Fresno State
  • San Jose State: Fresno State and San Diego State
  • UNLV: San Diego State and Nevada
  • Utah State: Wyoming and New Mexico
  • Wyoming: Utah State and Colorado State

Conference Realignment: Assuming the Mountain West will eventually need to expand, who are the top two teams you would choose as replacements? Share a few sentences on why, citing the level of competition, geographical factors, if they join as full members, and how they would factor into the revenue sharing (bad example: Alabama and Notre Dame will join in 2025).

The top option for realignment would be picking up North Dakota State, who are in the Missouri Valley Conference in football and the Summit in basketball. From a pure performance standpoint, they’re as elite of a program as their in the two-highest revenue-driving sports: Football and Basketball. They’ve won 10 conference championships and nine FCS National Championships since 2010 in football and seven combined regular season and conference championships in basketball alone. In a world where pedigree matters, the Mountain West would be better with North Dakota State in it.

A more logistical option would be either Sacramento State or San Francisco. Both are in decent-size markets (relative to the rest of the conference) to help with recruiting and marketing; the former has one of the best football programs in the FCS while the former is more of a basketball and baseball program.

Bowl Tie-Ins: What are some realistic bowl tie-ins you would attempt to negotiate for the conference (bad example: Sugar Bowl vs. SEC Champ)?

While this might not be geographically realistic, I’ve long been curious why Seattle doesn’t have a bowl game. Perhaps it would be logistically complicated in an NFL Stadium outdoors—especially during the NFL season (we could navigate the schedule year-to-year and pick a date when Seattle’s on the road.) Worst comes to worst, bowl games are held in multiple baseball stadiums (Fenway, Yankee Stadium)—why not Safeco Field, which is right next door to Lumen Field?

A more realistic scenario would be holding it in either Autzen Stadium or Beaver Stadium in Portland or Corvallis. My ideal tie-in would be the MWC runner-up against a Pac-12 school, similar to the LA Bowl, or perhaps against a middling Big 12 or Big Ten school. Either way, I think Washington and Oregon would be two feasible markets to have a bowl game that could attract fans all around the Western United States.

Media Deal: What would be your realistic plan for the next media rights deal? Consider dollar amount, total years, team distribution, specific networks, game tv slots, linear tv vs. streaming (bad example the MWC will get 1 billion dollars over 10 years and will get Saturday primetime on ESPN every Saturday)

My first negotiation would be around seven years, $420 million. I would try to keep the FOX and CBS TV Networks, though I would try to expand to ESPN networks on Friday or Saturday evenings at 10 p.m. EST for “primetime” games. I would also like to have the game slots on FS1/FS2/CBS/CBSSN from 7-10 p.m. EST each week allotted for Mountain West games, which might be difficult logistically. Streaming routes—such as Peacock, Amazon Prime or Apple TV—would be interesting options, though it would limit viewership because those are behind paywalls.

Three of the biggest issues appear to be conference realignment, bowl tie-ins, and money from a media deal. Which of the three would you make your number one priority? Why are you choosing that one and provide more detail to how you would address it?

Realignment is the biggest issue for me. As soon as one domino falls—looking at you, San Diego State—it wouldn’t surprise me if Boise State, Colorado State, Fresno State or even UNLV elected to move to greener pastures. I would hope my previous negotiation for $420 million over seven years would entice them to stay, but there are never any promises in today’s day and age for college athletics.

What’s another thing not listed here that the conference could do off the field to enhance its product on the field?

Marketing. If you can continue to brand and build the conference’s athletics and student-athletes by marketing them profusely (via social media, especially), it will enhance viewership and the on-field market. Foster an environment for them to be themselves that allows them to show their personality to fans.