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C-USA Wanted to Merge with Mountain West to Form 22-Team Mega Conference

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After the loss of Utah, BYU and TCU the leadership of the top Non-AQ Conferences the Mountain West and Conference USA started meeting last year to discuss possible partnerships.  Neither Commissioner Craig Thompson of the Mountain West or Commissioner Britton Brankowsky would elaborate on what they were specifically looking at in terms of working together.  It could have involved a possible merger, media deal or scheduling partnerships.

It looks like the goal for Brankowsky was to have both conferences merge to create the largest conference in the NCAA that literally stretched from coast to coast.  Craig Thompson shot down the possibilities of the two conferences merging in a recent interview in early July.  

"Their interest was more of a combined big old league of 20-some-plus institutions, where we’re interested in effectively changing the postseason," Thompson told the Union-Tribune about his talks with C-USA. "We’re kind of saying, ‘This is our agenda. Your agenda might be a little bit different, but it’s good to talk.’"

Thompson wants to have the Mountain West gain AQ status for the current BCS system while also also pushing for the creation of a new playoff system.  There may not be any major workings between the conferences in the next year but they will continue to keep the lines of communication open according to Southern Miss AD Richard Giannini. 

"Our league continues to pursue conversations with the Mountain West in terms of how we could best form some type of alliance whether that’s a super conference or whether it’s a situation where we could compete against each other," Giannini said. "But the big thing in the Mountain West is their biggest effort is to concentrate on the new situation in their league."

In 2012 the Mountain West will have 10 football members while C-USA will have 12 members.  If a merger were to happen there would be two divisions created.  To create two equal divisions of 11 members one C-USA school would need to join the Mountain West schools.  The obvious choice would have been UTEP which fits geographically and has history from the old WAC and with New Mexico and the Front Range schools. 

There has been talk of several conferences eventually ending up with 16 members.  Jumping all the way to 22 would be quite the undertaking.  Here is how the newly combined conference most likely would have turned out.

Boise State UCF
Nevada ECU
Fresno State Marshall
Hawaii** UAB
San Diego State Southern Miss
UNLV Memphis
New Mexico Tulane
Wyoming Tulsa
Air Force SMU
Colorado State Houston

** Hawaii is a football only member.

The new conference would have strong football and basketball programs in both divisions.  By having a team in every time zone it could also create a strong case for a large TV deal.  The only problem is that pie would be split so many times that it may not ending up being that large of a piece for each school after everything is divided.