In case you somehow missed the big news yesterday. The Mountain West and Conference USA announced on Monday that the two conferences will merge completely starting with the 2013-14 academic year. The presidents of the sixteen schools met in Dallas on Sunday to work out the broad direction of the new conference. You can read the full release if you like but we've summarized the nitty gritty of the arrangement here.
The structure of the new conference will include:
- Membership of 18 to 24 universities
- National scope from the Atlantic Seaboard to Hawaii
- Championship football game format that includes semifinal match-ups
- Championship basketball tournament
- Regular season scheduling in divisions
- NCAA FBS affiliation
- Mechanisms to emphasize and improve academic standards and fiscal responsibility
The timetable for all the details to be worked out is six months. Currently there are sixteen remaining members of the two leagues for 2013. With the conference planned to have 18 to 24 members there will be at least two schools added and as many as eight. I'd only expect two teams to be added so that with 18 teams there can be two divisions of nine teams. That allows eight non-conference games in football and then a championship game. UTEP is likely to be moved back to the western division and be reunited with it's old WAC foes.
New schools that could be added to the Eastern Division include FIU, Louisiana Tech and Temple. Obviously there is plenty to work out a number of schools will be working to try and join. So what does this mean for Wyoming? We give our thoughts after the jump.
If the Mountain West stayed at it's remaining eight members for 2013 there would be little chance for TV revenue to increase or even stay and it's current level. There would also be little incentive for schools to remain in the league and there could be further attrition. By joining forces this new league creates stability and opportunities for several new revenue streams. The fact is that Wyoming is likely never going to going to be considered for membership in a "power" conference like the Big XII or PAC12. Sticking with the status quo would simply set the Mountain West up to die a slow death. This new conference will differentiate itself from other "Non AQ's" like the WAC, MAC and SunBelt. That is really what needs be done in case there is a further separation of the football divisions.
Here are a few concerns that fans have had about the merger:
- Travel: "It's a long way between Hawaii and East Carolina" - If you think that teams will be traveling 4,000+ plus miles for a game then you need to get out more. Most games will be regional to help reduce travel costs. There will be divisions setup and I doubt the travel schedule for Wyoming is going to be any more grueling then what we've experienced with TCU as a conference member.
- Revenue: "No way there can be more money with so many schools" - TV networks are lusting after live sporting events and advertisers are willing to pay more to be apart of those events. Sports are important because they are one event that is worth watching live and forces you to endure all the commercials Fox, Comcast, NBC and CBS are all thirsting for more live events for their networks. For football there are plans for a semi finals and a championship game. That kind of new intrigue and drama should demand plenty of money for a championship game. With more teams playing the league basketball tournament there will be a week full of games leading up to the championship. College baseball isn't a huge revenue source but the addition of the eastern teams will help improve the quality of the baseball tournament. With schools in five time zones it presents the opportunity for live sports events from dawn till dusk.
- WAC 16 Again: "We already tried this and it failed" - I agree that WAC 16 didn't work at all with it's "pods" and everyone learned a lot from the issues that developed. Going with a conference larger then 16 will make divisions easier and prevent lots of the scheduling issues that arose before. By keeping the two regional divisions it will keep together rivalries and keep travel to a minimum.
- New Name: "What do we name this conference?" - I don't really care what the name of the new conference will be. Likely it will be some type of safe all encompassing name that internet trolls won't like because that is their job. Not every school in the Mountain West has mountains, the Big 10 now has 12 members.
Well those are my thoughts on the new conference and why it was a necessary step to make. This a new wild era for the Mountain West and it will be exciting to be apart of this brave new venture that is being started. Give me your thoughts on what you think the conference means to Wyoming.
I found this article by Dick Harmon of the Deseret Times to be one of his finest pieces of homer journalism ever. I find it amusing that BYU beat writers are still writing about the Mountain West. Guess the drama of the WCC doesn't really sell many papers. Thanks for your input that people on the internet make fun of things: Dick. People on twitter are sarcastic? I never knew that! The incite in that article is truly life changing.