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.”