Peak Perspective: The Mountain West has lost the realignment battle & now needs to win a fight (or two).

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?

Losing teams

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.


Doing nothing may be better than the alternative now

This is a tough one. We lost the initiative in this scramble. What I don’t want to do is add non-competitive/non-traditional/small market football schools. With all due respect to Alex, I really don’t care about the basketball angle because of the large field of entrants to the tourney. If we’re trying to make our mark on the big $ sport, we have to figure out how to best position ourselves for the at-large bid(s) to the playoffs. Adding Tulsa ain’t going to do it. Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the more prominent MWC football schools don’t make a power grab with the bigger AAC schools and try to form a new conference — they tried it before when the WAC went to 16 teams — now we have the MWC.
If we’re going down the route of adding non-football schools I, personally, would like us to consider adding more baseball schools. We have some strong programs already and adding a few more would get us to multiple entries in the post-season tourney like basketball.
I guess my bottom-line is that we don’t add if they aren’t going to start at the top of the conference when they join. Tulsa is middle of the pack at best (and really small). Memphis has some good, some bad years. SMU has potential. But, don’t make a move unless you KNOW it will make you stronger. With the Big12 poaching of the top AAC schools, we should be in the position of strength for G5 conferences for years to come even if we stand pat. I’d love to go grab some big boys but unless another conference devolves, I’m not sure if it’s such a bad thing to stay where we are.

Action prevents reaction

I agree with you to an extent. I don’t think the MWC should just add a bunch of schools for specific sports like bball or any other sports unless it absolutely makes the conference stronger or puts the conference in a better situation. Considering Hawaii is an only football member, adding another team that is olympic sports only could benefit the conference like Gonzaga.

On the football side, I think adding a school like SMU or even Memphis could also preserve the MWC from getting poached the other way. The AAC is on the rebound and they will be going after schools to try and make themselves as the relevant G5 conference. You can bet they will go after top Sun Belt, Conf USA, MWC and maybe even MAC schools. With SMU and Memphis still there, it still is a pretty good conference especially at the top. That could be potentially attractive for some MWC schools who are looking for greener pastures. By taking away their upper tier members, that lessens the incentive for any of the MWC top programs to want to even consider the move.

Of course this all goes out the window once the Big 12 or another P5 conference comes knocking. Then it’s ever school for themselves.

Yes to all of this!

I understand your points

There is danger in adding a school like Memphis only to have the Big 12 take them.
There is also danger in adding schools just to add, which is not what is being recommended here.

I like the basketball angle because if they can’t add for football, they can still strengthen the conference by becoming a strong MBB conference. I like the thought about baseball as well.

Maybe they evaluate all options or try and come up short. But that is better than not trying. The news today from the Athletic that the MWC is content with seeing how things play out is so typical. Being reactive instead of proactive is so tiring.

Drop Hawaii. Add Gonzaga for basketball. Add North Dakota State for football only. Then add Montana and Montana State for all sports. Solidifies the western US. Gives the Conference 3 awesome football programs who will actually draw eyeballs to TV. NDSU is Central Time and Montanas are Mountain which keeps CBS Sports Network happy. You know they hate the late Pacific starts and really hate the Hawaii super late start. That alone will keep teams from coming

Going all the way to Memphis is laughable. Who wants to fly non revenue sports from Tennessee to Hawaii? Nobody

North Dakota State or Montana

You can either poach a mediocre team in a large market or bring in a brand that people know and want to watch. If you just pick teams by market, you’ll end up like Conference USA with a bunch of huge markets and no TV deal. Consider the approach The Sunbelt took. FCS Powers Appalachian State, Georgia Southern and Coastal Carolina who is ranked #17. James Madison another FCS program is next.. Good rivals, good programs, teams who actually care about football and teams that fans care about. It only took them a few years to build a stable conference better than Conference USA. Next they will surpass the AAC

Think about the FCS. Montana and the North Dakota State Bison are actually West of the Mississippi while is the real Mountain West Football footprint. I’ll talk more NDSU since their my team. BOTH teams are way bigger than their local markets. They represent the entire state. In NDSUs case, they are bigger in Minnesota than North Dakota. Their radio network goes all the way from eastern Montana to Minneapolis. They sold 38k tickets in the Minnesota Twins stadium and will be playing at the Vikings stadium in 3 years. They 18k travel to Frisco Texas 8 out of 10 years. Looking at Media markets. Boise is 101. Fargo- Moorhead is 114 ( 262,440) just behind Eugene (263,100) and Lincoln NE 107 (287,510)
Boise is 101. But NDSU is broadcast on statewide TV so you really need to include all the ND media markets including Bismarck #141. Same is true for Montana except they are Missoula, Billings and Bozeman

The Fargodome is packed, loud, big time and looks great on ESPN broadcasts. Same is true of Montana. Facilities? NDSU just broke ground on a 38 million dollar IPF. (50+ million when phase 2 is completed) NDSU already pays full cost of attendance for all their programs.

NDSU would be great for ratings. Its a national brand. They’ve been on ESPN or ESPN2 25 times during the last decade. One of the greatest dynasties ever. Routine wins over of the likes of Iowa and Kansas State. (Montana just had a win over Washington). Wins over Colorado State, Iowa State, Minnesota and Kansas. 3 NFL QBs including 2 first round picks. 2 trips to the White House. 2 ESPN College Gamedays. (3 if you count the trip to South Dakota when we faced our rival)

I don’t think NDSU would want to leave the Summit League for other sports. It’s a perfect Conference for them with 4 Dakota schools (NDSU, UND, South Dakota South Dakota State), Omaha, Denver, Kansas City, St Paul MN, and Oral Roberts, fresh off of the Sweet 16) Since the Summit doesn’t have football they are in the Missouri Valley for football

But football only is a smart move. NDSU, Montana, Montana State and South Dakota State are very similar. Heck get all 4 of them!

Mountain West Needs to Expand

Mountain West has lost nothing. The AAC and the WCC lost.

But, the Mountain West needs to strike now.

Adding Gonzaga as a non-football member is a no-brainer for the MWC. I would consider grabbing Wichita State from the AAC as a non-football member.

For football, I would go full send into the state of Texas, starting with grabbing UTSA in the highly lucrative and large San Antonio Market. I would then try to add 3 more of the following: SMU, Tulsa, Rice, UTEP.

Such a move would decimate Conference USA and would frustrate the AAC greatly — forcing the AAC to take UAB, FAU, and probably 2-3 other random schools just to survive.

The other less viable option would be to go full send in the North, grabbing Montana, Tulsa (again), and NDSU as a football only school similar to the University of Hawaii and either UTSA or UTEP (in that order).

But, I want to be clear that the bigger play is down south and entering the Texas market with a loud and triumphant entry.

Don’t Underestimate the AAC

It’s starting to be clear that the AAC will take both Colorado teams from the MWC . The will also add
UAB , UTSA , And FAU . But they will not stop there.
The MWC will be forced to add cupcakes like Rice, UTEP and NM State . This will further bury BSU ‘s Strength of Schedule and finally cause them to bolt the MWC . Aresco clearly understands this and will Circle Back with in a year to add 4 CA teams from the MWC .
It’s time for the MWC to initiate a MERGER with the AAC ( Before they are picked apart ). The New Big 12 will be a bunch of 8-4/7-5 teams ( No Playoffs here) . They are leftovers , abandoned by TX,OK,NE,CO,TX A&M, Missouri. The combined strength ( and Marketing expertise of the AAC) would ultimately push the Big 12 leftovers out of the way !!!

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