Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013 | 12:20 p.m.
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The Mountain West will divide its football teams into two divisions and play a championship game starting in 2013, the league announced. The Mountain West athletic directors, including UNLV’s Jim Livengood, voted in favor of the change at a meeting Tuesday.
The conference had previously expressed interest in staging a title game. San Diego State’s decision last week to decline its Big East offer and stay put gave the league the 12 football teams it needed to make it happen.
“There’s nobody out there who has 12 teams and doesn’t have a playoff,” Livengood said. “It adds some interest and intrigue to the season.”
The first title game will be on Dec. 7, 2013, at the site of the participating team ranked higher in the BCS standings.
The teams are separated by timeline into the Mountain and West divisions. The Mountain includes Boise State, New Mexico, Colorado State, Air Force, Wyoming and Utah State, which joins the league in all sports this summer. The West includes UNLV, UNR, San Diego State, Fresno State, Hawaii and San Jose State, which also becomes an all-sports member this summer. Hawaii is the lone football-only member of the conference.
“It is important that we be in the same division (as UNR),” Livengood said. “We’re trying to protect the natural rivalries.”
Livengood said there was a lot of discussion about different ways to divide the teams, and officials opted for one that keeps rivalries in tact and separates the teams according to region. While the early reactions from fans seem to suggest Boise State will roll through its side of things, Livengood said nobody will know exactly how the divisions work out for a few years.
The league schedule will include games among the teams in the same division and three interdivision games. For example, UNLV’s schedule will include games against the rest of the West division teams plus three teams from the Mountain. The interdivision opponents will change bi-annually, so the Rebels could play home-and-home series with Boise State, New Mexico and Colorado State for two years, then switch and do the same with Air Force, Wyoming and Utah State. The league said the team rotation and matchups will “be developed via computer scheduling models.”
Men’s and women’s basketball won’t be split into divisions, but teams will play an 18-game league schedule starting next year. With 11 teams, the league discussed doing a 20-game, full round robin schedule. Eventually, Livengood said, officials decided that would take away too many dates that could be used for nonconference games. The men’s league is getting a lot of national press this year, and it’s largely because of the teams’ success in the nonconference season.
The 18-game schedule will include nine home games and nine road games, with eight home-and-home series and then single games against the two remaining opponents. That last rotation for the last two is yet to be determined, though, Livengood said, from UNLV’s perspective he would hate to lose even one game with teams like New Mexico and San Diego State.
Other discussions that took place at the meeting included format options for the basketball postseasons, which Livengood said is something that’s basically been tabled for later.
No one can guarantee what the Mountain West will look like even a couple of years from now but, Livengood said, he hopes the league is done moving around.
“I really believe we have as a strong a Mountain West as we’ve had maybe ever,” he said. "If we’re really smart as a group moving forward, we’re a conference that people are going to have to deal with.”