SBD/February 14, 2012/Colleges

Conference USA, Mountain West To Dissolve Leagues, Create Nationwide Conference

Conference USA and the Mountain West Conference are “dissolving both leagues to create their own conference,” according to sources cited by Brett McMurphy of CBSSPORTS.com. The new conference will consist of 18-24 members and start in the '13-14 academic year. It would “not only have a conference championship football game, but also conference semifinals.” Both C-USA and the MWC will “continue as is for the 2012-13 season.” Sources said that the reason that the institutions “are dissolving and forming their own league and not just merging is for legal reasons.” The presidents and chancellors of member schools “will have follow-up meetings during the next six months to fully develop the operational issues essential to the formation of the association.” Sources said that Temple “is a possibility” to join the conference, as the school was contacted by C-USA "when the Big East last week opted to [invite] Memphis instead of Temple” (CBSSPORTS.com, 2/13).

CONFERENCE USA
MOUNTAIN WEST
East Carolina
Air Force
Marshall
Colorado State
Rice
Fresno State
Southern Miss
Hawaii
Tulane
Nevada
Tulsa
New Mexico
UAB
UNLV
UTEP
Wyoming
   

TRULY NATIONAL CONFERENCE: Tulane President Scott Cowen said, “We felt simply adding a few more members of each conference wasn’t terribly exciting really or satisfying either conferences as they were looking to the future. We began to really think about the future of intercollegiate athletics and what’s going on, and it makes sense to create a truly national conference” (New Orleans TIME-PICAYUNE, 2/14). In Reno, Dan Hinxman reports the new conference “would stretch from Hawaii to the Atlantic Coast but would be split into regional divisions to maintain rivalries and limit travel expenses.” Interim Univ. of Nevada President Marc Johnson said that the “potential move is a reaction to all of the realignment that has gone on in the past couple of years.” Johnson said, “We’re trying to respond to this continuous movement of schools in and out of conferences. We’re trying to gain a sense of stability. We’re at eight to 10 teams and have talked about going to 16 schools in some form of collaboration, so if we lose one or two teams, we don’t lose status as a conference.” Hinxman notes the new conference would be “affiliated with the FBS and would conduct a conference championship basketball tournament.” Dissolving current conferences “might allow the new conference to also dissolve the current TV contract with CBS Sports, which has four years remaining on it, and start from scratch” (RENO GAZETTE-JOURNAL, 2/14). YAHOO SPORTS’ Kristian Dyer wrote the conference “will strive for automatic qualification status in the BCS if such as thing still exists by the time the league is formed.” Both Cowen and UNLV President Dr. Neal Smatresk said that the BCS “will likely be ‘moot’ in a couple years but clearly the ‘AQ’ is a chip on the table” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 2/13). Tulsa AD Ross Parmley said, “We’ve used the term ‘thinking outside the box’ a few times when talking about conference realignment. We’ll see over the next six months how that plays out” (TULSA WORLD, 2/14).

DETAILS STILL TO BE DETERMINED: In Las Vegas, Mark Anderson reports MWC Craig Thompson or C-USA Commissioner Britton Banowsky “probably will oversee the new conference.” A rumor has spread that Thompson “will get the job," but Smatresk and UNLV AD Jim Livengood "said no decision has been reached” (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 2/14). In Houston, Sam Khan Jr. notes details, such as “who the league's commissioner will be or potential new members, have yet to be determined.” As for a new name, Smatresk said that he is “open to ideas.” Smatresk: “I'm taking suggestions. I think that we'll probably consult a marketing/branding expert, but we've got to take advantage of the fact that we're in all these different time zones” (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 2/14). In N.Y., Lynn Zinser wrote the new league “is a bunch of schools jumping into a lifeboat, but this is one ludicrously long lifeboat.” The challenge “now is naming it.” The name "Conference USA" came “closest to wiggling out of any geographic confines, but the new conference has vowed to have a new name, so perhaps Conference Western Hemisphere?” (NYTIMES.com, 2/13).

NEW TV DEAL A SELLING POINT
: In Orlando, Iliana Limon reports the “biggest selling points for the merger were an improved television contract, the ability to avoid adding subpar new members to replace schools that defected to the Big East, retaining rivalries built up in the two conferences and building on a relatively strong group of men's basketball programs” (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 2/14). In Las Vegas, Ed Graney writes under the header, “Merger’s About TV Deal, Not Football.” Graney writes if the change “leads to a better television contract for those Mountain West Conference teams about to merge with others from Conference USA … change is both good and necessary” (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 2/14).

PAYMENTS STILL COMING? In Boise, Brian Murphy notes if Boise State does “depart for the Big East in 2013 as scheduled, they could avoid paying an exit fee" to the MWC since that league "would no longer exist” (IDAHO STATESMAN, 2/14). The ORLANDO SENTINEL’s Limon writes there have been “conflicting accounts about whether UCF would really be forced to pay the full amount of exit fees" to C-USA before the conference and the MWC merged. The ability to enforce the payment "seems to be even more in doubt” (ORLANDOSENTINEL.com, 2/14).
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