Commissioner says Mountain West is happy to stay with 12 schools - Albuquerque Journal

Commissioner says Mountain West is happy to stay with 12 schools

As college athletics is taking another spin on the ‘every couple of years conference realignment’ carousel, it appears the Mountain West Conference is content in sitting this one out.

“Our position right now is we’re very comfortable with the 12 football playing institutions, and we’re going to stand pat,” Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson said on Wednesday.

“Currently we’re the number one Group of Five ranked conference, and have been many times in the past, and hope to be for several years to come. So, we like our makeup and are very interested in building and growing those 12 brands.”

Craig Thompson

The league’s Board of Directors (university presidents) met Tuesday night and decided there simply isn’t any value being added to the league, or its members’ pocketbooks, by adding any of the schools the league had been researching, primarily ones based in Texas.

Part of the decision was based on consulting with the league’s current television partners – Fox Sports and CBS Sports Network – who did not offer any indication that the potential schools the MWC might consider adding from either the American Athletic Conference or Conference USA actually added any value to the current media rights partnerships.

“I’ll let you read between the lines,” Thompson said when asked specifically if television partners gave them such advice.”We had weekly, if not bi-weekly, if not not-quite daily conversations with both our partners – CBS and Fox – and we got great input from them as to the media value of particular institutions and or markets.”

The 11 full MWC members, including the University of New Mexico, currently bring in about $4 million annually from its broadcast partnerships. If adding members doesn’t increase the current media rights revenue, each school would then be getting a smaller piece of the pie to share with new schools.

Thompson’s remarks came Wednesday during his customary appearance at the annual men’s basketball media conference, being held virtually this year.

But there was very little basketball discussed with the commissioner Wednesday. Recent conference realignment news, including flirtations by other leagues with several MWC schools, has been dominating the news of late.

In July, news broke that Oklahoma and Texas would leave the Big 12 to join the Southeastern Conference, setting a chain reaction of leagues poaching schools from other conferences – including the AAC flirting with but ultimately being rejected by MWC members Air Force, Boise State, Colorado State and San Diego State.

The MWC had been actively researching and considering whether it would be wise to move into large Texas media markets, albeit by adding schools that don’t demand much attention in those large markets. Ultimately, it decided against such a move for now.

And that includes any notion of revisiting past Mountain West flirtations with adding basketball-only programs like it tried to do with Gonzaga a few years back.

“There was discussion,” Thompson said of looking into pursuing basketball-only members. “… (C)ertainly basketball is an important part of our makeup, and it’s something that we’ll continue to monitor. I’m not saying we will never expand, we’ve just opted at this time to stay put at 12 institutions.”


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