ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Friday afternoon, the Mountain West Conference and Conference USA announced (as long has been speculated) a joining of the two leagues for football.
The two league commissioners say the association will begin in either 2012 or 2013 with a championship game after the two leagues remained in separate divisions with separate schedules that first season.
The goal, however, is to have a new conference with a new name, probably with three divisions and cross-over games between the three.
One likely benefit for UNM — resumption of an annual football rivalry with close neighbor UTEP for the first time since New Mexico left the Western Athletic Conference in 1999.
Will this move forestall a possible jump to the Big East by current MWC members Boise State and Air Force? The guess here is, probably not.
Still, the safety-in-numbers quotient appears to make this an intelligent move.
Would a conference with 20 or more members collapse under its own weight, as the 16-team WAC did in the late 1990s? Probably not, since we’re talking only about football. There’s enough flexibility and geographic integrity within the two conferences, too, to make the three-division set-up work.
That Hawaii-t0-East Carolina road trip (and vice versa) will be a bear, but it wouldn’t won’t happen often — if at all.