Published Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2010 | 3:30 p.m.
Updated Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2010 | 7 p.m.
As it turns out, the Mountain West Conference shake-ups over the summer involving Boise State coming and Utah going was just the start of it.
A league source on Wednesday afternoon confirmed to the Sun that amidst reports of BYU leaving the MWC to become an independent in football and a member of the WAC in all other sports, Nevada-Reno and Fresno State quickly accepted invitations to become members of the Mountain West, potentially beginning in the fall of 2011.
The additions of UNR and Fresno State were also confirmed to the Sun by UNLV president Neal Smatresk on Wednesday evening.
"I think it's great that our intrastate rival will be in the same league with us," he said. "We meet every year anyhow, and we have a wonderful competition. It's good for the state, good for our institutions and good for our conference. The same goes for Fresno State.
"We've considerably improved our posture as a league."
The Mountain West had been in touch with both UNR and Fresno State for some time, but did not extend invitations after adding Boise State into the mix on June 11.
At the time, it appeared that a powerful football league had been formed for 2011 and beyond, adding the Broncos to a league with BYU, Utah and TCU.
However, Utah left the Mountain West with what looked like a wash not long after, accepting an invitation to join the Pac-10 along with Colorado, which left the Big 12.
The invitations were extended officially in a game of tug-of-war between the MWC and WAC, with Boise State holding most of the chips at the table. Though Boise State had already accepted an invite to the Mountain West, the school could have returned to the WAC without facing a penalty, which could have left the MWC's future looking bleak.
Now, the WAC is the league that is against the ropes.
Following the departures of Boise State, UNR and Fresno State, the WAC is left with six members — Hawaii, Idaho, Louisiana Tech, New Mexico State, San Jose State and Utah State.
BYU could become the seventh member, and all reports earlier in the day were indicating that would be the case. But nothing is set in stone yet, as BYU could possibly return to the Mountain West or look for other league affiliations in sports other than football.
When asked if this would be the end of the league's shifting, Smatresk didn't give a conclusive answer.
"I think it's a little bit unclear of what the fate of every team in the league is going to be, and I'm not going to prejudge it," he said. "What I will tell you is given all the shake-ups that have gone on around the country, I think any league not considering what the future might bring is not planning well."
The kicker regarding Fresno State and UNR is a $5 million buyout that is enforced on all current members following a five-year agreement that was signed last week.
According to a Reno Gazette-Journal report on Wednesday afternoon, UNR sources said the school never signed the agreement.
The implications for the rivalry between UNLV and UNR are interesting.
The two schools already meet each season in a non-conference football contest, while rotating sites each year for a meeting during the basketball season.
Being in the same conference, it could potentially be set up where the Rebels and Wolf Pack close out each football season by facing each other, and they more than likely would see each other twice each basketball season.
As for the rivalry that has formed between UNLV and BYU — especially in men's basketball — UNLV coach Lon Kruger said exploring the option of continuing that series in the non-conference season would make sense. He said the same for playing Utah come 2011-12.
"It's pretty convenient travel," he said. "With Utah and BYU, you fly into Salt Lake City, it's a short bus ride and you play. It's pretty easy travel. We like playing non-conference games generally in the same region, get out and come right back, and play quality people. BYU and Utah both fit that."
"(BYU has) been a strong member, a very strong member. We've had some great battles in basketball and other sports. I'm disappointed to see them go, but wish them well, and the league will go on and continue to be strong."
Several lingering issues and questions will be addressed on Wednesday night during a teleconference with MWC commissioner Craig Thompson. The teleconference will air live on The Mtn. at 8:15 p.m. PST.
For more on this story as it develops, stay tuned to lasvegassun.com.