Gloria Nevarez’s path has brought her through the doors of the Pit before.
On the job since Jan. 1 as the new Commissioner of the Mountain West Conference — just the second commissioner the league has had since Craig Thompson held the post from its birth in 1999 through Dec. 31 — Nevarez is on an ambitious barnstorming tour trying to put in face time with university presidents, athletic directors, coaches, athletes and even media on the campuses and in the communities of the 11 markets that are home to league’s full-time members.
Her stop this past week in Albuquerque, which included a one-on-one podcast interview with the Journal on Friday that can be heard HERE or through top podcast providers, included discussing her journey to becoming the first Latino Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) commissioner and just the second female commissioner at the FBS level, joining Conference USA’s Judy MacLeod.
“Thousands of years ago when I first started in this business,” Nevarez joked, she was an assistant athletic director for compliance at Cal when she was selected to take part in a leadership development program aimed at helping women and minorities.
That’s when she met with former UNM athletic director Rudy Davalos — the namesake of the Rudy Davalos Practice Facility at the Pit.
“Because Rudy was the only Latino AD in the country at the time, they assigned him as my mentor,” she said. “So, they paid for me to come down here and shadow Rudy and meet everyone and see the facilities and he was really kind of always there for me. I could always call him about jobs and advice.”
That guidance started Nevarez down a path that including working at Oklahoma during some of that school’s top years of overall athletics dominance, joining the leadership team at the Pac-12 Conference (still the Pac 10 then) under Larry Scott and most recently being the Commissioner of the West Coast Conference, including when the MWC five years ago was trying to lure away basketball power Gonzaga.
The following include a few small snippets of what she spoke about with the Journal:
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Question: What is the top priority, or most pressing issue, facing the new commissioner as she starts her job at the MWC?
Nevarez: “I think what’s probably going to generate the most eyeballs is the expansion if it continues to rumble. I think whatever the Pac-12 does might have a ripple effect. And if they don’t (expand, including recent reports of trying to lure away San Diego State), then I think we’ll probably see some calming of the waters a little bit.
“But then, I really hope we’re going to do a deep dive in strategic planning and brand analysis, and really try to get a consistent look and feel to our brand and its messaging and really try to be a voice in the national market. I think we have a very strong regional message and awareness, … (but) a lot of the media is concentrated in that Northeastern corridor.”
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Q: Where does the league stand with its multimedia broadcast partnerships that currently run through 2025-26 and remain primarily driven by football interest?
N: “We have really good partnerships with Fox Sports and CBS Sportsnet and I think we’re in a really good position because a couple of things are going to happen before we go to market. We’re going to figure out what the Pac 12 is doing, and there’s a chance that they’re going to have a really big digital streaming piece. Our (Mountain West) Network is very robust. And currently, we’ll own that 100%. … We do have a good opportunity based on our Western region and time zone.”
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Q: The league has hopes of as many as five teams in the NCAA Tournament. How much does this league need its men’s basketball to be strong?
N: “The Mountain West’s history in basketball, especially here in Albuquerque, is really, really strong. The expectations are high. So right now, this week, we are the fifth-ranked average NET ranking league in the country. We’re number one in the West. And we’re looking at five teams eligible for at-large bids at the NCAA tournament. That’s pretty dang healthy.”