When it was announced last fall that Conference USA and the Mountain West would be forming a “football-only association”, it was practically drilled into our heads during the conference call that the move was not, in fact, a “merger” between the two conferences.
Turns out, it might actually be a merger after all.
According to Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News — and, really, Jon does a remarkable job with realignment news — several sources have come to the consensus that the two conferences will essentially fold into one for all sports. The details of this merger will reportedly be revealed sometime in the next month.
Wilner adds that the reason for the merger is so the two sides can receive money owed to them from past NCAA tournaments.
The next issue becomes size, which would be determined by what generates the most TV revenue. The TV contract has been, after all, the driving force behind realignment. The C-USA/MWC merger could proceed with the members it has available today — outside of those which have already announced they will be leaving for the Big 12 and Big East, obviously — or it could expand. In that case, it would almost certainly raid the WAC, which is already on life support, and/or the Sun Belt, which is considering its own expansion options under new commissioner Karl Benson.
That could leave both the Sun Belt and the WAC stranded similar to the way the Big East was when it became clear West Virginia would be leaving for the Big 12 this year before Temple filled the void.
Of course, that could all be a long way off. We’ll have to wait and see what the C-USA/MWC decided to do before anyone can legitimately speculate about any trickle-down effect. But in the growing divide between big and smaller FBS conferences, there could be some potentially serious ramifications.