ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — League will have 12 teams for football, 11 for basketball
For the sake of convenience and logic, it’s good that the Mountain West Conference’s founding fathers didn’t decide to call their new league “The Mountain West Eight” back in 1999.
Now, there are 12 — or 11, depending on which sport we’re talking about.
Wednesday, the Mountain West and San Diego State University jointly announced that SDSU will abandon its plans to join the Big East Conference for football this fall and will remain in the MWC.
San Diego State also will junk plans to compete in the Big West Conference in other sports and will be a full-fledged member of the Mountain West.
The announcement came 17 days after Boise State decided it would stay in the Mountain West rather than defect to the Big East in football and the Big West for other sports.
“I’m elated on January 16th (to be) where we are right now,” Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson said during a teleconference. “… We’ve got the band back together. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Since San Diego State and Boise State announced they were leaving, the Mountain West had moved to snatch San Jose State and Utah State from the Western Athletic Conference. Thus, this fall, the MWC will have 12 member schools for football and 11 for men’s and women’s basketball. Participation will vary elsewhere, depending on which member schools field teams in a particular sport.
The 2013-14 academic year will be the third consecutive in which the Mountain West’s membership has changed. Before that, the only change was TCU’s addition in 2005.
San Diego State is one of eight charter members of the Mountain West, as is New Mexico. The two schools have a long history, dating to their days in the WAC, and have met 38 times in football.
Paul Krebs, UNM’s athletic director, said SDSU’s reversal of field was welcome news for the Lobos and for the conference.
“It stabilizes the Mountain West,” Krebs said. “We’re at a really good place with 12 teams (for football), we’re still geographically aligned, and it strengthens our conference.
“It protects our turf, if you will, and I think from a national image standpoint it’s a victory for the league to keep an original charter member and a presence in Southern California.”
Lobos football coach Bob Davie said he was pleased to see SDSU remain in the conference.
“San Diego State’s return is another confirmation that the Mountain West has a bright future,” Davie said in a statement.
Krebs said it’s his understanding that, for football, the Mountain West will have two six-team divisions, with a championship game to follow the regular season. Thompson said neither a divisional format nor a championship game had been locked in as of Wednesday but said that scenario is highly likely.
Thompson said the 12-team league will stick to an eight-game conference football schedule, meaning there are three league teams — yet to be determined — the Lobos will not play next season.
For basketball, Thompson said 20 conference games are too many, meaning some teams will not meet or some will play each other only once.
Thompson said the league’s board of directors — consisting of school presidents — is not ruling out further expansion, but added that will not happen between now and the 2013-14 school year.
New Mexico and the other Mountain West schools will benefit financially from the added TV inventory the retention of San Diego State brings to the conference.
The league’s current contract with CBS, its primary carrier, was negotiated for $8 million in December, with no knowledge by either party that Boise State and/or San Diego State would abandon their plans to leave.
But now, Thompson said, “There’s renewed interest in the Mountain West Conference, and I definitely feel there’s a lot of people interested in this inventory. … We will be talking with CBS because now we have a new, value-added entity in San Diego State.”
Thompson said TV rights to San Diego State’s home football games will not be negotiated outside of the league’s contract with CBS, as Boise State’s will as a condition of the Broncos’ staying in the Mountain West.
San Diego State does not owe the Big East a buyout because its agreement with that league stipulated it would owe nothing if the Big East had no other members west of the Mississippi.
The Aztecs will have to buy their way out of the Big West Conference, which was to house all of SDSU’s sports other than football. That tab is $1.5 million, which will be paid from the school’s share of 2012-13 Mountain West revenues.
— This article appeared on page D1 of the Albuquerque Journal