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Published Friday, June 11, 2010 | 10:45 a.m.
Updated Friday, June 11, 2010 | 6:30 p.m.
With the world of college athletics now shifting by the day with conference re-allignment fully underway, Ryan Greene and Ray Brewer get you caught up to speed and discuss what measures the Mountain West Conference should take to keep up with the pace.
In a Monday news conference, Mountain West Conference commissioner Craig Thompson said the league would take a proactive approach to the league expansion going on across the country.
On Friday, the MWC backed those words up in a big way.
Boise State is officially leaving the Western Athletic Conference and will become the MWC's 10th member. It was confirmed in a statement released early Friday morning, kicking off a landmark day for the 11-year-old league.
Thompson said that after the MWC decided not to expand earlier in the week, the process was then set in motion with Colorado declaring its intention to leave the Big 12 for the Pac-10 on Thursday, leading the Mountain West to act swiftly.
He said the MWC was not pursuing Colorado, but could sense that with one domino having fallen, more were soon to drop and the time to act could be short.
A conference call with the league's board of directors took place on Friday morning at roughly 6 a.m. PST, and news broke shortly thereafter.
Thompson did not say that the league is definitively done expanding. He said that lines of communication with other schools are currently open.
"This kind of goes back to Sunday and Monday last week, with our board of directors in Jackson Hole, we'd been contemplating the sea change," Thompson said. "Are we best being at 10 (teams)? Are we best being at 12? Do we look at 16? Something in between?
"We may be done, but we anticipate continuing the dialogue that started yesterday and continued into today between athletic directors, particularly board of director members with institutions. I can't predict that we are finished, but I know that we are continuing to look to grow the Mountain West Conference."
This is the Mountain West's first expansion since TCU joined the original eight-member field in 2005.
Boise State had a July 1 deadline given by the WAC to let the league know its intentions. The school is paying an undisclosed entry fee to join the conference and will officially become an MWC member on July 1, 2011.
"It will be a privilege to compete and partner with such a successful group of member institutions," Boise State President Robert Kustra said in a statement. "This move is in the best interests of Boise State's future, and the university is excited to be part of one of the nation's most outstanding conferences."
In a teleconference on Monday night, WAC Commissioner Karl Benson made it sound as if Boise State heading to the MWC was all but a done deal.
"I think everyone was anticipating and expecting it," he said. "All the signals out there were pointing in the direction that any invitation would come today.
"This is an unbelievably volatile period. The poker playing that is going on I think is unprecedented."
The movement around the country doesn't appear to be even close to done.
Nebraska on Friday officially announced its intentions to leave the Big 12 for the Big Ten, joining in Colorado in defecting from the league.
As for the Big 12's future, it hangs in limbo as five of the Big 12 South schools decide what to do with invitations from the Pac-10 and invitations elsewhere.
Reports on Friday indicated that Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State will officially accept Pac-10 invites early next week, while Texas A&M may still join them, but is also being heavily courted by the Southeastern Conference.
If it turns out that the Mountain West is not done, either, rumors naming Kansas and Kansas State as potential targets may continue to pick up steam, as they are currently sitting and watching as their conference crumbles.
Thompson was asked specifically on Friday if he has contacted Kansas and Kansas State, but he deflected the question.
"I'll leave it at this: I've had conversations last night and this morning, continuing up until this phone call, with several institutions," he said, neither confirming nor denying. "I know that both board members and athletic directors are reaching out similarly to get a sense of where institutions' minds are these days."
However, when asked if he's keeping a close eye on the Big 12 specifically, he insinuated that he was.
There is also still the possibility of other conferences attempting to come in and poach current Mountain West members as their own leagues deteriorate, with the Big 12 being a prime candidate.
Friday's addition of Boise State could be looked at as a power play to make staying more attractive.
"I'm not aware that any are, but I would not be shocked if some were going to be approached by other people," he said. "We'll be prepared. I think today's decision was a part of that."
As for the Boise State addition, it obviously boosts the Mountain West's football credentials right from go and more than likely puts the league in line to be an automatic qualifier for the Bowl Championship Series.
The Mountain West will now claim three so-called "mid-majors" that have made BCS games as at-larges — Boise State twice, Utah twice and TCU once.
Oddly enough, Boise State's second BCS appearance was this January against TCU. The Broncos prevailed in the Fiesta Bowl match-up, 17-10.
The program also pulled off what is viewed as the biggest upset in the BCS's 12-year history, downing Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl with a 43-42 triumph.
The Broncos have won seven of the last eight WAC football titles, and under current coach Chris Petersen are 49-4 in the his four seasons at the helm, including undefeated campaigns in 2006 and 2009 to go with a 3-1 record in bowl games.
"We want to play at that BCS level," Thompson said. "We have played at that BCS level. We've performed well at that level. We've won BCS games. We now have in our market share four perennial top-25 teams, three of whom have played in BCS games, two of whom that have each won two BCS games. It continues to be the No. 1 stated goal of the Mountain West Conference, and I think we made a strong move in that direction to continue that development as a BCS automatic qualifying league.
"I think that there's going to be some changes in the BCS, regardless if there's six (major) conferences or five or four. What we do know is there's a four-year contract under the current rules and regulations with ESPN and the four bowls. In two years, there is an opportunity for a seventh conference to become eligible as the seventh automatic qualifier."
Another topic brought up during the lengthy teleconference was the potential layout of the league's regular season football schedule.
Thompson said nothing has been determined as of yet as to whether the MWC will stick with its current eight-game conference slate format. Before its own expansion, the Pac-10 set a model in place for 10-team leagues, with everyone playing three non-conference games and nine league contests, facing everyone in the conference each season.
Thompson said his personal preference is a nine-game conference schedule.
But that, along with a restructuring of the conference's current TV deal, is one of many semantics which the Mountain West now has the luxury of 14 months' time to hammer out with its shiny new member.
They key accomplishment on Friday for the league was showing that it has some vision and will do its best to stay intact as the world shifts around it.
"I think a lot of it might be people think this is a game of musical chairs," Thompson said. "And they want to have a seat when the music stops."