Craig Thompson was the Mountain West Conference’s first employee when he was named Commissioner on Oct. 15, 1998. Ever since, Thompson has navigated the Conference through the ever-changing landscape of intercollegiate athletics. As the league enters its 19th season of competition in 2017-18, Thompson continues to create and improve the opportunities for Mountain West institutions and student-athletes to be successful both academically and athletically.
Since the Mountain West opened its doors on January 4, 1999, Thompson has been committed to excellence in intercollegiate athletics, while promoting the academic missions of its member institutions. Progressive in its approach, the MW has flourished under the guidance of Commissioner Thompson and continues to cultivate opportunities for student-athletes to compete at the highest level, while fostering academic achievement and sportsmanship. He has been instrumental in negotiating nearly $300 million in television revenue and has been an innovator in the postseason bowl structure as MW teams have participated in six inaugural bowl games.
As conference realignment spread throughout the collegiate landscape, Thompson positioned the Mountain West for the future with the additions of Fresno State and the University of Nevada on July 1, 2012, and San José State University and Utah State University on July 1, 2013. The University of Hawai‘i also joined the league as a football-only member on July 1, 2012, while Colorado College became a member in women’s soccer on July 1, 2014.
Thompson’s leadership and vision have helped the Conference enhance its television revenue and exposure through revolutionary agreements with CBS Sports Network and ESPN, becoming the first major collegiate athletic conference to launch a dedicated sports channel featuring exclusive programming around its athletic programs, as well as conference news. In the summer of 2006, the centerpiece of this historic relationship was realized with the launch of The Mtn. – MountainWest Sports Network – the first sports network dedicated to serving a single collegiate athletic conference. The Mountain West was also one of the first conferences to develop its own digital network and in collaboration with Stadium, continues to expand and enhance the league’s profile by taking advantage of the latest in digital technology via the Mountain West Network (MWN). As a result, the Mountain West again broke new ground in 2016, becoming the first league to broadcast a football game live on Twitter. The MW was also the first conference to broadcast a live basketball game on the same platform, as well as the first to have a bowl game streamed live on Twitter and Facebook.
Thompson has been instrumental in strengthening the position of the Mountain West in the college football landscape - both in the previous Bowl Championship Series (BCS) format and in the current College Football Playoff (CFP) structure. In 2006, he spearheaded an effort that resulted in better access for the MW and more than doubled the annual BCS revenue on an annual basis for non-automaticqualifying conferences. The MW has been steadfast in its efforts to find a way to make the collegiate postseason football system fair for all universities. Through its first 18 years of competition, the Mountain West has participated in 84 bowl games, amassing a 46-38 (.548) all-time record in those contests.
A 39-year veteran of athletic administration, Thompson has spent all but eight of those years sitting in a commissioner’s chair, making him one of only two active FBS commissioners with more than 30 years of experience leading a conference. Throughout his career, Thompson has been an integral part of the national landscape in intercollegiate athletics, holding many prestigious NCAA posts. Thompson currently sits on the NCAA Division I Council and CFB Management Committee while also serving as a member of the College Football Officiating Board of Managers, LLC. In June 2017, he was appointed to the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee for the second time in his career, following a five-year term from 1995-2000 that culminated with him serving as Chair of the committee from July 1, 1999 to September 1, 2000.
Over the tenure of his career, Thompson has also been a member of the Executive Committee and the Director’s Cup Committee of the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA), as well as the governing NCAA Council and various Council subcommittees. In addition, he has played a prominent role in hosting numerous men’s and women’s NCAA postseason basketball tournaments in St. Louis, Atlanta, New Orleans and Denver.
Prior to his current role, Thompson served as the commissioner of the Sun Belt Conference for nearly eight years and as the only commissioner of the American South Conference prior to the merger of the two leagues in 1991.
While at the Sun Belt Conference, he spent the majority of his time addressing national trends and challenges in intercollegiate athletics, television exposure, issues relating to conference membership and promoting corporate involvement. In 1997-98, the Sun Belt instituted a comprehensive sportsmanship policy, which earned Thompson designation as a 1998 Sports Ethics Fellow by the Institute for International Sport. Under Thompson’s leadership, the Sun Belt was active in expansion as it continued to strengthen its posture nationally, adding Florida International University and the University of Denver.
Prior to its merger with the Sun Belt, Thompson served as the first and only commissioner of the American South Conference, which boasted an NCAA national champion in women’s basketball during its first year. The American South also gained immediate national cable television exposure on ESPN and sent numerous teams into NCAA postseason play during the conference’s four-year history.
Preceding his move to commissioner, Thompson served four years as the Director of Communications for the Metro Conference in Atlanta. While at the Metro, he directed the communications operations and administered conference championship events. Thompson originated the Metro Conference Sportswriters and Broadcasters Association, began a weekly radio program with over 300 affiliate stations, and originated a weekly satellite video program involving all Metro institutions. He also took on administrative duties such as coordination of officials, scheduling of tournament and regular-season play, and handling of legislative rules interpretations.
Thompson graduated from the University of Minnesota with an undergraduate degree in journalism. Following graduation, he spent two years as assistant sports information director at Kansas State University, earning numerous CoSIDA publication awards. He then spent three years as director of public relations and promotions for the NBA’s Kansas City Kings.
Thompson and his wife, Carla, have a son (Ted) and a daughter (Emma).
ATHLETIC ADMINISTRATIVE EXPERIENCE 1998-present Commissioner, Mountain West Conference 1991-98 Commissioner, Sun Belt Conference 1987-91 Commissioner, American South Conference 1983-87 Director of Communications, Metro Conference 1980-83 Director of Public Relations & Promotions, Kansas City Kings 1978-80 Assistant Sports Information Director, Kansas State University
NCAA ADMINISTRATIVE EXPERIENCE 2014-present NCAA Division I Council • NCAA Division I Council Men’s Basketball Oversight Committee (2014-17) • Men’s Basketball Legislative Subcommittee (2016-17) 2014-present College Football Playoff Management Committee • Philanthropic Subcommittee (2015-present) • Operations Subcommittee (2015-present) • Site Selection Subcommittee (2014-present) 2013-17 Chair, FBS Subdivision of the Collegiate Commissioners Association 2011-12 Division I Bowl Licensing Task Force 2008-10 Consultant, Task Force on Commercial Activity in Intercollegiate Athletics 2008-10 NCAA Football President 2007-present College Football Officiating Board of Managers, LLC 2002-04 NCAA Men’s Basketball Issues Committee 1999-13 NCAA Football Board of Directors 1999-00 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee Chair 1995-00; 2017-present NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee 1994-97 NCAA Basketball Officiating Committee 1989-92 NCAA Council • NCAA Council Subcommittee to Review Reform Proposals (1991) • NCAA Council Subcommittee to Develop a Division I-AAA Football Classification (1990-91) • NCAA Council Subcommittee on Athletics Certification (1991-92)
ADDITIONAL ACTIVITIES AND HONORS 2014-present Coalition to Protect the Student-Athlete Experience 2005 NCAA Football College Relations Committee 2002 Horizon Awards Voting Academy 2000-present Lou Groza Award Voting 2000-present Naismith Awards Voting 1999-03 USA Football Board of Directors 1998 Sports Ethics Fellow, Institute for International Sport 1994-98 Vice Chairman, Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation 1992-98 Directors’ Cup Committee, National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics. Executive Committee (1992-94). 1992-98 District III Chairman, NIT Advisory Committee 1991 National Advisory Committee, Atlanta Tipoff Club 1991-93 Division I-AAA Vice President, Collegiate Commissioners Association 1990-98 Selection Committee, Babe Didrikson Zaharias Award