Mountain West Tables Expansion, for Now
That was the gist of a release issued by the conference following two days worth of meetings by the Mountain West's board of directors in Las Vegas.
"The Board feels strongly the membership configuration already established going forward creates outstanding prospects for future success," the release stated.
For the past two days, rumors have been rampant that the Mountain West was looking at adding two members in order to create a conference championship game and perhaps gain a more lucrative television deal. While the teams the conference was considering -- Utah State and San Jose State -- might potentially have brought the television markets of San Jose/San Francisco and Salt Lake City, they added very little to the conference's quest of ultimately being a BCS automatic-qualifying conference.
"In addition, we are continuing with our strategic initiatives related to our television partnerships and the MWC's efforts to effect change in the BCS structure," the statement said. "The Board is excited about what is undoubtedly a bright future for the Conference."
Utah State hasn't had a winning season since 1996 and hasn't been to a bowl game since 1993. The Aggies have only had three winning campaigns since 1980. San Jose has had just five winning seasons during the past two decades and is 3-22 in the past two years.
Currently, the Mountain West is on the outside looking in when it comes to BCS automatic qualification for 2012 and with TCU leaving for the Big East after the 2012 season -- and taking its BCS numbers with it -- the Mountain West would need stellar efforts from new members Hawaii, Fresno State, Boise State and Nevada to continue to be in the race.
But it's not just the product of the top teams that help the conference in its BCS quest, it's also the teams at the bottom, and with four teams already posting three or fewer wins this season, the conference couldn't afford to add a 4-8 Utah State team and a 1-12 San Jose State team and continue to drag down the basement of the league.
Even so, expansion isn't totally off the table. The Mountain West has until July 1 to add new teams and have them start playing in the conference in 2012. But it seems more likely that the best candidates for expansion at this point would be teams such as Houston, SMU and UTEP, which, so far, have been lukewarm to the Mountain West's advances.
Still, the Mountain West does have a precedent for sending out meaningless press releases. On June 7, after a board of directors meeting, the conference said it had no interest in expanding at that time. On June 11, it sent out another release announcing the addition of Boise State.
The next move for the Mountain West will be securing a new television deal. The conference is currently in the midst of 10-year stint with The Mtn. that began in 2006. It also has deals with CBS College Sports and Versus. However, with the additions of new markets in Fresno State, Nevada, Boise State and Hawaii, as well as the conference becoming better and gaining national exposure, there are some bargaining chips in the conference's pocket. Tony Jones of the Salt Lake Tribune reported Monday that Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson met with Comcast late last week to discuss possible television opportunities. The two parties had met in the past.
With Utah State and San Jose State likely off the Mountain West table, the WAC can cautiously begin to move forward with rebuilding its conference. Commissioner Karl Benson said in an earlier interview with FanHouse that he hoped to have invitations out to prospective new members -- both football and non football -- by April 1 to ensure proper membership to satisfy NCAA provisions by 2012.