Mountain West Media Days are behind us, and there were some interesting topics discussed, although not as much as other years. Far and away, the topic on everyone’s mind was whether or not San Diego State would remain in the conference past this sports season. See below for a recap of the big discussions from last week, as well as some thoughts about them.
San Diego State and Mountain West choose to play nice.
News broke Tuesday evening that the Mountain West informed San Diego State they will remain a member of the conference. This was the right choice and is good for both parties, although SDSU has to pay the conference’s legal fees on the matter. It’s good nothing got messier. The Aztecs don’t have to worry about being without a conference in 2024, there is no messy legal battle, and all parties know that if/when a PAC invite comes, SDSU will accept it. But until then, everyone is playing nice and continuing the best “for now” option. We even got a “The Mountain West is better with San Diego State in it” line from Commissioner Gloria Nevarez. Speaking of...
Gloria Nevarez’ initial state of the conference address.
In her opening and inaugural media days press conference, Commissioner Nevarez came across calm, collected, and full of vision.
Much of her time on the job so far has been spending time doing campus visits, with doing seven deep visits so far. Noticed committed to athletics, partnership with communities. Creating a strategic plan for the conference, collecting date and input from over around 10,000 people in all demographics (our own Vic Aquino was on the media advisory committee). Hope to roll out the Five Year Plan in October.
During her discussions with student-athletes representing their teams, she highlighted discussions about the regulation of NIL through Congress to prevent pay-for-play (and later clarified that they need Congress’ help for the NCAA to regulate NIL). National regulation to get to national competition in hopes of culminating in national championships. Also, there was a discussion on the impact of the transfer portal, including team and locker room dynamics. She wants to monitor the policies of the portal and be a voice around shaping those policies. She also mentioned sports wagering and the importance of upholding the integrity of competition and protecting student-athletes (especially online).
She pointed out that about half of the school ADs, plus a few bowl reps, and reps from Fox Sports and CBS Sports were in attendance. Not sure if they come every year, but they haven’t been acknowledged before and it goes along with the goal of the conference building a stronger national brand. Part of this was citing the 25th anniversary of the conference and how they are a conference of innovators and firsts, citing lots of examples from over the year.
Another goal she mentioned a few times on Wednesday was securing a NY6/playoff spot in football going forward. She was happy to add women’s gymnastics as the official 19th sport in the Mountain West, the first addition since the conference’s inception.
A few different times, Nevarez mentioned finishing in the top six of the FBS conferences every year (which coincides nicely with the playoffs) and highlighted the depth of the conference and how often they have finished in the top six 10 times in 19 years, according to the computer rankings (pay attention national listeners!). Along with this, viewership continues to break records, with over a 100% increase. (1.9 million viewers) in the Mountain West championship game from the 2021 to 2022 seasons. She thinks their top 4 or 5 teams are in a good position to be part of the NY6 or CFP due to their core talent and strength of schedule.
And, she praised former commissioner Craig Thompson, for what that is worth. In a stark contrast to his style, Nevarez talked about an important part of her job is to be the megaphone to promote the conference. That is quite a breath of fresh air.
The new head of officiating for the Mountain discussed his role going forward. During the season, Defee and another person will be in Dallas overseeing every in-game review, helping to guide decisions if officials are off track and then evaluating performances. During the week, he will review calls, give every official a report card, and provide training when needed so they don’t keep making the same mistakes.
Defee talked about the officiating alliance with other conferences and said it’s mainly a commitment to make similar calls and consult with one another so everyone is growing together.
This year, conference games will be done solely by Mountain West crews, as opposed to last year when some were Big 12 crews. In order to accomplish this, they brought in two new officiating crews and have mixed crews so it isn’t all brand new refs working with each other.
Defee also mentioned every ref is required to fill out a conflict of interest form to avoid bias and that they track fairness and impartiality with analysis and date. He also spoke about his own journey as a ref and thoughts on bias.
Predicted Order of Finish
In what should not be a surprise to anyone, Boise State was chosen to win the Mountain West by a wide margin. This was 12th year they have been picked to win the division/conference, and while they don’t always win, it is clear the voters expect them to be one of the top teams in the conference every season. Also, remember they went undefeated in Mountain West play last season, so it’s not like it’s unwarranted.
Looking at other teams, Fresno State, Air Force, San Diego State, and UNLV all got at least one first-place vote. One of the earliest talking points of Media Days was who was the writer who voted for the Rebels? That writer is either going to look like a genius or a fool depending on how UNLV plays this season.
Air Force and Fresno State finishing second and third makes a lot of sense. San Diego State is a bit too high and Wyoming is probably a bit too low. Colorado State, Utah State, and UNLV could probably be in any order and the votes were close enough to justify that as well. Same with Hawaii and Nevada and while it won’t be a complete surprise to see New Mexico not finish last, it’s hard to put them anywhere else to start the season.
This is definitely an award where it would be great to see what the total votes were. It would not be a surprise if this were a close vote between Cordeiro, the reasonable choice as the returning quarterback with the best stats, and Taylen Green, the reigning Freshman of the Year who is the best bet to win the award at the end of the season. To be clear, Cordeiro is not the wrong choice by any means, but it does not mean he was the only good choice. Also, did any other player get any votes, like say, Tory Horton?
If options were slim on the offensive end of things, they were likely even slimmer on the defensive side of the ball. It is important to note that Frenso State’s Cam Lockridge was not on the ballot. This likely meant Easton Gibbs was easily the heavy favorite to win the preseason DPOY award. Some of his Cowboy teammates on the d-line and Colorado State’s Mohamed Kamara likely got votes as well, but the Gibbs’ announcement was the arguably the least surprising part of the releases.
In many ways, the Special Teams Player of the Year selection is often the most challenging one to vote on. Do voters value a pure specialist like a kicker or punter, or a skill player who is electric in the return game? It would be interesting to know if voters vary between the two or stick to one mindset year after year. Regardless, Browning won the award after the 2022 season and that made him the obvious choice to win the 2023 preseason version. Being the primary punter and kicker likely gave him a leg up on the competition.
Also, does anyone know the reason there is no preseason coach of the year vote?
All Mountain West Team
There doesn’t seem to by any wrong choices here. See above for the Cordeiro vs. Green discussion, but Chevan isn’t a wrong choice. Same with running back, where Ashton Jeanty has a case being a steady backup in 2022 just like Eldridge III, but Jeanty wasn’t on the ballot. Ricky White has a case to be on, but so does Lockhart. On the o-line, it seems like having five players for five teams may have been a priority, but all are deserving. Some other Falcons could have gotten a nod here. Good to see Christian Washington get recognized, because he deserves to be.
Looking at the defense, it’s interesting the defense gets an extra slot compared to the offense. The follow up to that is why is the slot given to the DL? Regardless, every player on here is deserving, although a Wyoming player or two may have had the edge over someone else on this list. There were probably four deserving linebackers for three spots, but the three who appeared are in that group, so it works out fine. At defensive back, it seems weird to not have Lockrdige nominated, as he should be among the top four in the conference, but considering he wasn’t, no big deal with the way it panned out. Punter and punt returner were obvious choices.
All in all, the voters got the team right, with no glaring omissions or out of left field selections.
Your turn: List your thoughts and opinions on selections, media days, and the conference in the comments section below.