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Conference USA, Mountain West combine into football-only association


The rumors that circulated nearly a month ago that Conference USA and the Mountain West would congeal into one big ol’ football entity have come to fruition.

In a statement made by C-USA commissioner Britton Banowsky and MWC commissioner Craig Thompson, the two conferences announced that they have formed a football-only association that, as of today, consists of 22 football members — 12 from C-USA and 10 from the MWC (Fresno State, Hawaii and Nevada join in 2012; TCU leaves for the Big 12 the same year).

“Our presidents authorized an agreement, a memorandum of understanding, signed to consolidate our football programs,” Thompson said via teleconference tonight. “This is a concept we’ve been working on for over a year.”

In fact, it was the Mountain West who took the initiative on the move. Last summer, and as is mentioned above, the Mountain West snatched Boise State, Fresno State, Hawaii and Nevada from the WAC. The man who helped facilitate the process was current interim Big 12 commissioner Chuck Neinas.

So, yes, this is what Neinas was working on when he said several weeks ago that he had a prior obligation to C-USA that he had to finish.

Because of its size and structure, the yet-to-be-named league will try and hold a conference championship game in 2012. ESPN currently has the rights to air that game, and there doesn’t appear to be any indication that will change next year. Beyond that, however, the long-term goal is to have a multi division model that might include a multi-tier playoff format.

Before you ask, neither commissioner would go into details of how the scheduling or mere logistics would work.

“Conference USA will build our schedules over the next 90 days,” said Banowsky. “There will be some complications.

“We think it’s going to create fun, competitive opportunities.”

Oh, it’ll be interesting to be sure.

The two leagues will honor their current TV contracts — the two have a common distributor in CBS — which also include deals with ESPN and NBC. The superconference (yes, we can officially call it that now) is working on a new television deal, but neither commissioner would go into specifics.

There are also, obviously, various questions about membership with the BCS and within the conference. Banowsky said no conversations have been had with BCS executive director Bill Hancock and that none were in the offing. Within the confines of the new conference, there’s a good possibility the new association may not stay at 22 members. Air Force, Boise State, Central Florida, Houston and SMU have all been mentioned as serious candidates for the Big East.

Neither Banowsky or Thompson would comment on the speculation of departing members, but Banowsky did specifically say that Central Florida had been in talks with the Big East. When asked, Banowsky said he felt the school would stay.

“We’re trying to position our schools as best as possible, to provide as much security as possible,” Thompson said. “Each of these schools has made a significant investment.”

Thompson did confirm that Air Force and Boise said they were in talks with the Big East during a conference call this morning about the association (although Boise has denied any invitation). If either/both leave for the Big East, Thompson said the schools will not be allowed to participate in the MWC in other sports.

But the new conference is flexible, and not concerned about staying at a specific number. The idea, Banowsky said, is to allow more programs to come in if needed. When asked if more than 22 teams were considered, and if the new superconference looked to bring in more members, Banowsky simply said, “yes.”

“College athletics are changing so fast. If we’re not quick to adapt, we could lose some positioning.”

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23 Responses to “Conference USA, Mountain West combine into football-only association”
  1. htown77006 says: Oct 14, 2011 8:29 PM

    If they lose 5 teams (Air Force, Boise State, Central Florida, Houston and SMU) that’s a 17 team conference. Not too crazy.

    Maybe they’ll finally get an AQ bid?

  2. jshalk123 says: Oct 14, 2011 8:53 PM

    Don’t see how they could get an AQ bid after losing 5 of their top teams. There is a lot of dead weight in both conferences.. they would be better off shedding that dead weight.

  3. deadeye says: Oct 14, 2011 8:55 PM

    Good for them. The super-conferences are coming whether anyone likes it or not. I didn’t expect it to be the Big-USA or whatever they’re gonna call themselves. But you gotta admire how they have worked quickly to secure their position in the ever-changing NCAA landscape.

  4. bender4700 says: Oct 14, 2011 8:56 PM

    Hahahahhaha good joke Htown.

    The Big East has the AQ status due to their long time importance to college football. (Miami was there up until fairly recently).

    The MWC/C-USA aren’t going to up root the Big East just by increasing numbers.
    Need high dollar teams.

    Just reality

  5. 78lion says: Oct 14, 2011 9:04 PM

    The WCC (Who Cares Conference)

  6. sixsixny says: Oct 14, 2011 9:40 PM

    How about Mountain Worst?

  7. thefiesty1 says: Oct 14, 2011 9:49 PM

    Three or four almost decent programs and a bunch of (should be) Division II schools doesn’t make a super conference. But, I like the playoff possibilities maybe force the others to finally consider it.

    Now we know why Neinus is so adamant of the BIg 12 staying at 10. Seems like a conflict of interest to me.

  8. TxGrown says: Oct 14, 2011 10:06 PM

    If they can make a playoff system work in this conference…

  9. sabanissatan says: Oct 14, 2011 10:07 PM

    It’s not the SEC so who cares

  10. Deb says: Oct 14, 2011 10:52 PM

    This reminds me of a conversation between forum participants on an episode of HBO’s Real Sports. They were talking about how the football landscape is going to change and fewer schools will offer major football programs.

    Whether people like it or not, few of the teams in this new “super” conference should be automatic qualifiers, and the best of those will probably leave. It’s time to look at breaking up Division I, taking the elite conferences and teams, and creating a playoff system utilizing the BCS bowls. The second tier–which would include this conference–can then create their own playoff/bowl system.

  11. centexhorn says: Oct 14, 2011 10:54 PM

    Schools would be crazy to leave this superconference for the Big East. The Big East minus Syracuse and Pittsburgh is going to lose its AQ status. I promise. And adding new schools isn’t going to change that.

    This superconference could potentially end up with a single AQ bid.

    The Big East is unstable. More teams will be leaving. UConn doesn’t want to be associated with a bunch of nobodies. Neither does West Virginia. Both them and Louisville are potential Big 12 candidates. And I gotta think both of them would jump at a chance to leave the Big East now.

    The Big East needs to stop desperately scrambling to survive as a football conference. Just die gracefully, and become a non-football conference already. Basketball is its bread and butter. Don’t add a bunch of schools that suck at basketball and ruin the one good thing you have going for you. Just stop. You can’t be two things. You can’t be a conference for non-football playing schools and football playing schools.

  12. baltimorecoltsfan says: Oct 15, 2011 12:27 AM

    Did anyone else notice the picture is of LEFT hands shaking? Or was that on purpose and I”m missing something? :)

  13. tifosi73 says: Oct 15, 2011 12:41 AM

    This is the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard of. 22 teams in one conference?

    Like someone mentioned maybe they could have a playoff in this league and declare their own national champion. Like Division I-AA but only slightly better.

  14. waynefontes says: Oct 15, 2011 1:05 AM

    Mediocre + Mediocre = Mediocre.

    Wow, 22 average teams (which is really maybe 6-8 average teams and the rest is garbage) and they should be considered a super conference?

    The SEC, Big Ten+2, Pac-12, and the ACC are legitimate powerhouse conferences.

    The Texas + whoever doesn’t abandon ship conference at least deserves an automatic bid.

    But this group of scrubs? And let’s say some of the better teams leave for another conference, which I’m sure they will.

    Like an old friend of mine said to another friend regarding their dating history.. “Quality, not quantity”

    They deserve a BCS bid about as much as the Big East does.

    Neither DESERVE anything. Let them earn an at large bid.

  15. waynefontes says: Oct 15, 2011 1:09 AM

    Actually, the ACC sucks in football (and has for a long time). But they do have basketball.

    And I would bet at least 3 teams in any given year would run the table in the “Wal-Mart Conback-Mountain” league.

    Hence their inclusion.

  16. christopher525 says: Oct 15, 2011 1:11 AM

    Welcome in the Mountain Dew Conference.

  17. florida727 says: Oct 15, 2011 6:44 AM

    Someone forgot to tell them that “superconference” was a term to define the QUALITY of play on the field, not the QUANTITY of teams that make up a conference. It’s a easy oversight. I can understand their confusion.

  18. Deb says: Oct 15, 2011 10:29 AM

    Maybe it’s time to have a separate football division across the board.

  19. critter69 says: Oct 15, 2011 3:01 PM

    “This is the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard of. 22 teams in one conference?”

    Why is it dumb? The ECAC has 312 teams. Most you’ve never heard of, but then again, how many Div. I (football or any other sport) teams can the average fan name from memory?

  20. mdnittlion says: Oct 15, 2011 11:26 PM

    @ Deb

    I’d put good money on the fact that the conference championship game gets played in Jerry’s World. I wonder if the new conference is going to create anymore second tier bowl games? That would be your opening to create a separate division across the board so to speak. Let’s be honest some fan bases are just happy to go to a bowl each year period.

    @ Everybody

    I’d love to hear Craig James say on the air after the move “these guys don’t belong to play in a BCS Bowl, seriously who do they play?”

  21. Deb says: Oct 16, 2011 12:30 PM

    mdnittlion says:

    Let’s be honest some fan bases are just happy to go to a bowl each year period.
    Yes … and I just don’t get it. You can’t win it all every year, but you should have a shot every year or what’s the point?

    I love college ball, but I looooove the NFL. Will watch any NFL game no matter who’s playing. A big part of that is the increase in level of difficulty from college to pro. But it’s also because the NFL is rational (well, as long as you stay out of the commissioner’s office). Team rankings are based on objective wins and losses, not some sportswriter’s subjective bizarre fixation on Notre Dame. We usually don’t know all the playoff teams until the last day of the season. The tournament is 12 of 32–that’s a third. And then it’s anybody’s game. That keeps a majority of fans engaged throughout the season with legitimate hope their team can get in and run the table.

    In college ball, you have to pray some panel of sportswriters, coaches, and computer geeks has arbitrarily ranked you in the top four at the start of the season and that you can wiggle into the top two by season’s end. Without a playoff, the only game with any meaning is the National Championship. The bowls are irrelevant.

    It’s just cuckoo. If you aren’t at least trying for a championship, why are you playing? Love of the game is for Little League.

  22. mdnittlion says: Oct 16, 2011 3:47 PM

    @ Deb

    You forgot to mention the biggest difference between college and the pros. You have to have a winning record in college to make it to the post-season, but in the NFC West 7-9 makes it to the playoffs and the NFL commissioner will not change the playoff formula no matter how embarrassing last season was. The Bucs went 10- 6 and got nothing to show for it.

    I’d like a playoff in college, to be more like the basketball tournament. Unlike the current system, if your a fan of Fresno State or Troy since you know you’ll never be given a chance at a title at least you get a bowl game. If they can’t change that, which I know they won’t cause the college presidents want the bowl system too much and in this economy anything that brings money into a town people want.

  23. Deb says: Oct 16, 2011 6:27 PM

    Good grief, mdnittlion, that idiot Goodell doesn’t need to stick his fingers into anymore pies than he already has. That scenario occurs once in a blue moon in the pros. And it doesn’t change anything. You still have 12 NFL teams going to the playoffs compared with 2 NCAA teams. My Steelers have been in that situation, having the same record as the wildcard but sitting home because they didn’t have the tiebreaker. To them and the Bucs, I say: Win more games. They’re professional players; they know the rules.

    I would favor adding two additional wildcard teams to each conference, but not changing anything else. Division winners go, that’s it. I’m not willing to lose the thrill of division competition and rivalries to avoid a one-in-a-blue-moon scenario. And Seattle beat the defending NFL champs in a really exciting game, so they proved they deserved to be there.

    In the NCAA, Division I needs to be further divided. The top tier teams should be competing for a playoff tournament that utilizes the BCS bowls as venues. And the lower-tier teams like Troy can still go to all those other bowls. But at least 12 teams should still be eligible for the championship when the season ends.

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