Here’s a pretty good summation from Yahoo.com’s Graham Watson, formerly of espn.com, of the current merger talks between the Mountain West Conference and Conference USA and related issues.
I’m particularly glad to see Watson pay MWC Commissioner Craig Thompson some respect; I’ve seen a lot of stuff online, in reaction to his interest in the Minnesota athletic director’s job, calling him a do-nothing commissioner who failed to anticipate or take action as the Mountain West as we knew it crumbled around him. Not true.
First off, if the Mountain West school presidents had taken Thompson’s advice and admitted Boise State a couple of years before they did, who knows how different the current picture might be?
It was also under Thompson’s leadership that the Mountain West reached out and snatched Fresno State and Nevada from the Western Athletic Conference in an attempt to block Brigham Young’s move to football independence and WAC membership in other schools. BYU left anyway, but there ultimately was nothing Thompson or the MWC could have done to prevent it. Same goes for Utah, which was going to accept a bid to join the Pac-10 (now Pac-12) whenever that offer came.
As the Atlantic Coast Conference raided the Big East, the Big East reached out to Boise State and San Diego State, and the Big 12 extended an invitation to TCU (which was leaving for the Big East, anyway), again, there was nothing more Thompson and the MWC could have done beyond what they did — reach out to Conference USA for a football alliance.
One thing Watson doesn’t discuss is how little real excitement there is from anyone about the prospect of an Mountain West-Conference USA all-sports merger. After the Big East’s predations, neither league has a flagship football program (unless it’s Air Force); neither has a major television market. There’s considerable sentiment on both sides of the Mississippi to work something out closer to home.
And yet, prospects for that seem equally bleak if not more so.