SBD/December 8, 2011/Colleges

MWC, C-USA Now Looking At All-Sports Merger, Instead Of Football Only

Sources said Thompson would become commissioner of the newly merged league
The Mountain West Conference and Conference USA are "looking at an all-sports merger instead of a full-scale football expansion as originally planned," according to sources cited by Brett McMurphy of CSBSSPORTS.com. Sources have indicated that MWC Commissioner Craig Thompson would "become the commissioner of the new merged league, while Conference USA commissioner Britton Banowsky would step down." Sources added that a vote "on the merger could come by next month." To combat the departures of five schools to the Big East, the MWC had "decided to add San Jose State and Utah State." But sources said that "adding those schools has now been put on hold" (CBSSPORTS.com, 12/7). In Las Vegas, Taylor Bern notes the conferences' all-sports merger, "instead of just football, has been floated as a possibility in the last 48 hours, and it makes a lot of sense." The two conferences "already have a working relationship and an investment in the other’s success." But Bern writes, "Poaching a couple of schools -- most likely from the WAC -- may be a more practical fix." Air Force indicated yesterday that it would "stay in the Mountain West, so the conference may only need a couple of schools to remain viable." Also, keeping the additions "limited to the west coast help keep the non-revenue sports’ travel budgets from ballooning" (LAS VEGAS SUN, 12/8). Air Force Superintendent Lt. Gen. Mike Gould, in announcing the academy is presently passing on the Big East's offer, said that he called Big East Commissioner John Marinatto last Friday. Gould: "I told him, now is not a good time for Air Force to move to the Big East. The primary draw was the potential for big TV money. Potential, I emphasize" (Colorado Springs GAZETTE, 12/7).

TO STAY OR TO GO? In Reno, Dan Hinxman notes WAC Commissioner Karl Benson yesterday "asked Nevada, Fresno State and Hawaii to reconsider and remain in the WAC," but Nevada is sticking with its move to the MWC. Benson said, "All I did was notify them that if and when the landscape changed, if they wanted to reconsider we would welcome them back." Nevada AD Cary Groth said that she "believes the Mountain West is still the better fit" (RENO GAZETTE-JOURNAL, 12/8). In New Mexico, Teddy Feinberg notes the three schools are all expected to join the Mountain West next year, but with Boise State's moving to the Big East, he wonders if any of them could "stick around" in the WAC. Benson said that there would be "no hard feelings toward the schools for their motives to leave, and that if they decided to retain their membership, they would not have to pay a substantial departure fee -- in Fresno State's and Nevada's cases, that would cost them $5 million." Talking about recent realignment announcements, Benson said, "Conference USA took a hit, the Mountain West took a hit. Will there be some potential impact? Yes. Conference USA has interest in a WAC team or two, the Mountain West has interest in [a] WAC team or two" (Las Cruces SUN-NEWS, 12/8).
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