Back in October, in the midst of Conference Apocalypse v.2.0, the Mountain West and Conference USA announced it was forming a football-only association — not a merger — that would’ve consisted of 22 schools for the 2012.
Since then, Boise State and San Diego State have announced they are leaving the Mountain West for the Big East in 2013, as did Conference USA members Houston, Memphis, UCF and SMU.
A byproduct of that attrition, in part, will reportedly be the two conferences engaging in what walks, talks and smells like a full-blown merger.
According to Brett McMurphy of CBSSports.com, the MWC and C-USA will dissolve as separate entities and merge all sports into a single conference. The merger would take effect beginning with the 2013 season.
Citing college football industry sources, McMurphy writes that “[t]he reason that the institutions are dissolving and forming their own league is for legal reasons.” What those legal reasons are was not detailed.
In a statement released by the MWC subsequent to McMurphy’s report, UNLV president Neal Smatresk confirmed the report but did not use the word merger; rather, the press release describes it as “forming a new intercollegiate athletic association.” Regardless of what it’s technically viewed as, it will result in one conference spread from coast-to-coast across the United States and into the Pacific.
“This is an exciting development that will stabilize the current conferences and create the first truly national conference with members in five time zones and television viewership from coast to coast. This partnership brings together like-minded institutions to improve the integrity and stability of intercollegiate athletics,” said UNLV President Neal Smatresk. “We are moving our plans forward rapidly and expect to complete our conversations in the near future. Look for further announcements soon as we work together on this exciting new venture.”
With the losses of members from both conferences for the 2012 season, and with the MWC’s addition of three WAC schools in 2012, the yet-to-be named conference will consist of 16 football-playing members — eight from each league:
Air Force (MWC)
Colorado State (MWC)
East Carolina (C-USA)
Fresno State (MWC)
New Mexico (MWC)
Southern Miss (C-USA)
That might be the lower end of the conference membership roll as it turns out; in the MWC’s press release, it’s stated that the structure of the new league will likely consist of 16 to 24 universities. Whether all, some or none of the upwards of an additional eight members would be football-playing members was not discussed.
How many divisions and which schools will be in which divisions will be decided over the next six months. The conference will hold a football championship game, and the release states that there will be semifinal matchups to determine the title game participants.