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Mountain West/Conference USA talk merger, The Mtn. expands coverage

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The Orlando Sentinel did an interview with Britton Brankowsky the Commissioner of Conference USA yesterday where he mentioned they were active in talks with the Mountain West regarding a merger or partnership between the two conferences. 

"We have talked about broad consolidation of some of our assets involved in our league and his league," Banowsky said of his conversations with Thompson. "It's a fairly aggressive and big idea. It is something that we are considering that might add value. We as a conference will continue to explore all our options."


Both the Mountain West and Conference USA are fighting to earn a spot as an automatic qualifying conference and a part of the lucrative BCS bowl system.  By putting their assets together there may be a way for these schools to break the glass ceiling that has held them back.  Here are a few options that may be on the table:

  • Championship game between top team in MWC and CUSA.  Winner goes to a BCS Bowl. 
  • Moving members to balance the leagues.  UTEP could join the Mountain West and be close to New Mexico.  Conference USA could focus on the Eastern half of Texas and the Southeast.  Not sure this has a big chance of occurring since the Miners seem pretty happy playing so many other Texas schools.
  • Media Partnerships.  Both leagues play some of their games on CBS College Sports.  The MWC teams also appear on Versus and it's own network The Mtn.  A few CUSA games get picked up by ESPN.
  • Scheduling partnerships for out of conference games.  Basketball scheduling could be easier with road trips that hit two or three schools at once.

The big knock on the the Mountain West is that no one ever gets to see the teams play unless you live right near a school.  The Mtn. has a fairly limited footprint but it just got  a lot bigger yesterday.

Dec. 1, 2010

The Mtn. – MountainWest Sports Network has launched on Comcast cable (XFINITY) in the Atlanta, Ga. area and is available to Suddenlink Communications customers in West Texas, including Abilene, Amarillo, Lubbock, Midland, San Angelo plus several municipalities east of the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
The Mtn. can be viewed on Comcast XFINITY digital television service in the Atlanta DMA (No. 8 in the United States) on the Sports Entertainment Package (channel 786) in areas having completed Comcast’s World of More upgrades and will be available on remaining systems throughout 2011 as World of More enhancements are completed.  

Adding the locations in Texas makes sense even if TCU is leaving in 2012.  The big question is why add Atlanta a market that is nearly 800 miles away from the closest MWC team?  It's the eighth largest television market and the media center of the Southeast.  Perhaps to taunt SEC fans and let them watch "BOYZEE" on TV more often.  Or it could be part of future expansion by The Mtn. and the beginning of a partnership between CUSA and the MWC to televise more games. 

If Hawaii joins the MWC in 2012 as a football only member The Mtn. could have a full slew of games on Saturday.  They could start with a broadcast of a CUSA game at 9 a.m. PST in Orlando, then another CUSA game on at Noon PST, followed by MWC broadcasts at 3, 6 and 9:30PM PST.  Hawaii always plays a late home game so that is over 12 hours of football that could be broadcast in one day.  Even if they don't go with five broadcasts they could easily fit four games into the schedule every day.

The telecasts would attract viewers from across the entire United States and literally stretch from coast to coast.  Basketball games could fill up more weekdays broadcasts in addition to other sports like baseball during the spring.   

"I think anything that we can do to strengthen our ability to increase our television revenue, I'm all for," he said. "One would think if there's an opportunity to be a broader base conference with more institutions that can bring something to the table, that has a chance to increase our revenue opportunities. For me, about looking at ways to create more revenue and create more exposure."

UCF Athletic Director Keith Tribble   

With the loss of Utah, BYU and TCU the chances of the Mountain West obtaining AQ status on it's own are now sitting somewhere between slim to none.  If they stand pat then everything will stay status quo.  So what do the Mountain West schools think of working with Conference USA?

SMU Athletic Director Steve Orsini said he has spoken with some Mountain West leaders who are open to a potential partnership.

"Ultimately, we ask for equity in abilities to compete for a championship," he said. "And I believe that will be a step in the right direction. … I truly believe there's no reason why we shouldn't have equal access to championships and the resources that go along with that. I don't mean just conference championships, I mean national championships."