UNR, Fresno State to join Mountain West Conference

Smatresk confirms moves; MWC commissioner Thompson to hold 8:15 p.m. teleconference to address expansion


Steve Marcus

UNR fans celebrate on the field after the Wolf Pack defeat the UNLV Rebels at Sam Boyd Stadium in September 2008. Invitations from the Mountain West Conference to UNR and Fresno State to become members were accepted by both schools. They will join the MWC in 2011.

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

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  1. Funny how you can refer to Utah on first reference but not Nevada.

  2. The Rocky Mountain Bush League has officially started.

  3. out of all the pictures we could have used.... we picked one of unr cheering in the silver bowl? bleh... BYU screwed us... MWC is going to dissolve and the WAC is going to be 18 teams again like it used to be.

  4. Nevada and vegas should be in the same conference, for obvious reasons. I do not understand how vegas people can slam the Wolf Pack; we have a better overall athletic program than you, and you KNOW this! The MWC would've been a BCS automatic-qualifying conference if not for football SLUGS like vegas, wyoming, SDSU, etc.

    See you in the WAC soon, vegas! The WAC will get vegas and the Aztecs to join + Gonzaga in basketball, and it will be a way better conference than the MWC. you better hope that's how it goes down, ya sadsaxofshiznit...

  5. LMFAO... And BTW its "Nevada" when you are talking about athletics, and "UNR" when you are referring to it as an institution of higher learning, ya bunch of insecure, narcissistic hillbillies.

    See ya back in the WAC!

  6. FUNR

  7. LOL better program? How many sweet 16's has the wolf pack made? How many wins in the NCAA? What a dumb A. Nevada who?

  8. yeah, a better program. what? You gonna bring up that single tainted hoops title, I suppose? Been living off that far too long, Nevada Southern.

    FUNR? Clever. Never heard that one before.

    Keep it classy, vegas!

  9. ha.... its UNR and take your 4 teeth back to Reno. Hillbillies? lol.. wow. UNR has our number in football only... even that is about to change.

  10. No one has heard of Nevada Reno. They should join the Big Sky.

  11. :) i hope you keep hearing it

  12. 1 National title or zero. Its still more then RENO ever will have. NCAA every year now for the REBS.

  13. Just heard on ESPN Radio that the WAC is trying to get UNLV & SDSU! WHAT THE HECK?

    Hey Ryan, check out the validity of that story and get back to us, will ya? Thanks bro.

  14. So it's about to change? That's would be amazing, I didn't know something like that could get ANY worse, but maybe if ya schedule a few more Sac States, things will pick up!

    Q: What do you get when you breed a rebel and a groundhog?

    A: Six more weeks of bad football.

    2009: vegas, 28 Nevada, 63

  15. Told ya so! Welcome "back to the WAC!"



  17. The Meth Lab Up North has a better overall athletic program than UNLV??!!

    Only if you count major felonies as a competitive sport.

  18. Funny. Pssst....Hey, did you know U.S. News and World Report annual list of top universities came out yesterday?

    Yes. And it ranked UNR as a TIER I national university, one of the top 200 universities in the USA.

    Where was Nevada southern (aka UNlv) on that list? Too bad, not even ranked because it DID NOT MAKE THE CUT! Don't feel too bad, though. ya did get manage TIER II status. Oh well, there's always next year!

    Look for yourself. LOFL!!!!!


  19. @unlvrunrebs: Let's see, the MWC has grabbed probably the top three schools from the WAC, and from this you infer that the MWC is going to dissolve and the WAC will once again be an 18 team conference? Superb logic!

  20. go_wolf_pack,
    How many times did the Wolf Pack beat UNLV when Chris Ault wasn't the head coach? I'll answer for you, they didn't. Ault is 63 years old, he won't be Reno's savior for much longer.

    How many of those Reno teams that beat UNLV had two, three and even four star prospects from Southern Nevada? Much, much more than are even recruited outside of Clark County. Where Las Vegans are saying you'll see a change is b/c those two, three and four star prospects that went to UNR are now heading to UNLV under Bobby Hauck. The kids that play for McQueen and the other Northern Nevada powerhouses are going to Cal or Boise, they're not heading to Reno anymore.

    If you want to bring up education, then why don't you look at how much the Nevada Department of Higher Education gives to UNR and UNLV, also look at how much is given to the school per student. Reno has 16,000 students, UNLV has around 30,000. That means more money from the state for UNR's small enrollment than UNLV's large enrollment. If Reno were not getting all the money from Northern Nevada's biased legislators then it wouldn't be a Tier I school. It's either have two Tier II schools, or screw one over so they can elevate one to Tier I status.

    If Nevada-Reno's athletic department is so much better than UNLV's, then why didn't the WAC invite Reno to join the super conference in the mid-1990s? Why hadn't UNR been invited to the Mountain West until the conference was stabbed in the heart by BYU? Also, why would ESPN list UNLV as one of the 10 best college basketball programs in the nation?

    Now be a fan all you want, but don't come here thinking that you're better than us because if there is one thing that moving from Nevada has taught me is that no one outside of the Pacific West knew what the hell Reno is/was without the help of Comedy Central.

    Have fun, welcome to our conference and please don't pee in our sinks like the Wisconsin fans.

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  22. @Segelrj

    Hey, Wisconsin hasn't peed in our sinks yet!

  23. UNR's program has always been head over heels better than UNLV's. With BYU gone, they will be the class of the league. Fresno? Just a b.s. commuter school in Cali. - Oh wait, that describes UNLV too!

  24. Seriously, who in the MWC will get excited about these additions? There are no new rivalries here (we're already are stuck with the rednecks up north every year anyway). These are mediocre football schools and lousy basketball schools (you had your run, UNR... it's over).

    The MWC is starting to look like a Big West alumni meeting. Let's hope NMSU, Utah State, and San Jose aren't part of Craig Thompson's master plan to get that automatic BCS bid.

    And let's hope Long Beach State and Cal State Fullerton don't revive their football programs - we might invite them just so we can have a football conference championship game! "Live this Saturday on the mtn!... or is it on Versus?... oh, forget it!"

  25. UNLV president just confirmed that UNR and Fresno are coming, so has the Reno Gazette-Journal and Fresno Bee. I honestly think that BYU will be staying now. Just wondering who's going to help the two schools with the $5 million buyout, though I heard that Fresno never signed that agreement...

    @icy1007 personally I don't care if they pee in our sinks this year as long as they buy up all the tickets for the game.

    @COrebel as long as Ault and Hill are the HCs at Reno and Fresno, then both teams will be competitive, kind of like Minnesota and Michigan State in the Big Ten. They won't sniff a conference championship, but at least they'll add some depth. Also, I think Thompson would go after Houston before any of the WAC leftovers. Houston's football program has been consistent over the past decade and their basketball programs are rising, including a multi-million dollar renovation of their gym. Plus, adding UH gives the MWC the Houston media market and a travel partner for TCU.

  26. Guys, confirmation has come to me from Smatresk. Comments from him are in the updated text above ...

    My two cents: The MWC's outlook was bleak this afternoon, but credit the league for saving itself in what was a tug-of-war for survival between them and the WAC. The WAC now might die off. I don't think BYU stays with the MWC, either. I think they go to an independent in football, and the most viable option for hoops and everything else might be joining the WCC. Addition of Fresno and UNR also bolsters the MWC's football profile and helps ease the blow of losing Utah/BYU. I think that TCU-Boise-Fresno-UNR-Air Force is a damn strong top half of a league for football. It probably still doesn't get the MWC a BCS AQ, but keeps the league strong and built for the long haul.

  27. Yeah there needs to be 8 teams to have a conference. If WAC can't drum up 2 more schools, they're as good as dead.

  28. If UNR and Fresno St are going to the MWC, I think UNLV and UNM should go to the WAC. It would be easier to build their football programs in the WAC and it would be a heck of a basketball conference with BYU, Utah St, New Mexico State, UNLV, and UNM. I think it would make more sense for them to do that based on where their athletic programs are at right now. Plus the WAC has the ESPN contract. Just saying

  29. The WAC has a few options before it dissolves altogether.

    1. The WAC can try and persuade two Big Sky schools (possibly the two Montana schools) to jump to FBS. Though it would take a lot of money for those schools to do this.

    2. The WAC can drop down to FCS, the NCAA has allowed the Great West Conference to play as a football conference with only six teams.

    3. The WAC tells its current members to become football independents and cease their football competition (see Big West Conference).

    4. Lastly, like we all say, the school presidents can vote to dissolve the conference. If that happens though where do Hawai'i, San Jose State, Utah State, New Mexico State and Idaho go for football? IMO, LA Tech would be able to join the Sun Belt Conference, so they'd need not worry about that.

  30. Whats this about Cal State University getting an invite?

  31. @lobo69
    California State University, Fresno is the name of the institution, the athletic department and its programs go by the Fresno State moniker.

  32. @kjvr14

    UNLV and UNM aren't going anywhere.

  33. It's funny how North and South rivalry is SOOOOOOO bitter, Nevada came first, UNLV came second. End of story, I'll give it to UNLV, they got more students but don't count UNR out as "small" 16,000? WRONG it's closer to 20,000 now.

  34. @Segelrj: A bunch of long-winded excuses, vague promises and misinformation. As afar as academics, UNR gets more money -- with half the students -- because they earned it.

    Excuses, Excuses.

    The point is, we're here, and we ain't leaving. you can't ditch us this time for a more prestigious conference, because there's nowhere left to go!!!

    BTW: While attending your stinkhole of a FB stadium for a Battle for Nevada game some 14-15 years ago, a few of your hammered-drunk fans tried to literally piss on us from above as we walked the concourse to leave (a rare UNlv victory, to be sure). They missed, wide right, but that's about what I expected. Keep it classy, vegas!

    Anyway, Have fun, and don't worry, we wont pee in the sinks like the Wisconsin fans, but only if you promise not to go breakin the most expensive rivalry game trophy again, ya bunch of silly butter fingers! (That's assuming you can actually win it back).

    See ya soon, XOXOXOX

    Pack Fan#1

  35. hahaha welcome back, go_wolf_pack. As an ex-rebel im glad to be in the same conference as our in-state rivals. Why the hell not? Forget BYU, who's not tired of their holier than thou act. Let's down and dirty again with our step brothers from the north! Bring it on!!

  36. hell yeah, Lenny_V -- college football (and hoops) rivalries are what it's all about! Bring it on, rebels!

    It's about damn time, and it's good to be back! We look forward to it. A lot. Boise and UNlv are Nevada's two longest running and most intense rivalries. I hated to see that go away, and now it won't. It's a good day.

  37. Wait...we have a stinkhole of of football stadium? What do you call that high school football field (with one set of restrooms) on campus up north? Gorman has a better facility!

  38. @RebelAlum44: For real? dude, that place a utter hole in the desert!

    CHECK IT OUT >>>

    Mackay is nice, man! It's got luxury boxes, lots of good seating, a nice scoreboard, great weather, great food, and did I mention --- IT'S ON CAMPUS! Not a hot dusty drive from downtown like your stadium. And it's 3 blocks back to the downtown core to get yer drink and dice on! n vegas ya gotta walk t

    Nope. Ain't buying it. Mackay blows SBS away. Have you even been up here?

  39. Yes, I've been to Mackay and had the pleasure of having ice, and various other things, thrown at me by the lovely Wolfpack fans. Mackay is small is on campus but it is a dump.

    If Sam Boyd is so bad why does it host a bowl game every year?

  40. And who wants to hang out in downtown Reno anyway? I don't care how close it is...

  41. Mackay is going to get rebuilt VERY soon should Reno/Tahoe win the 2022 Winter Games, it will triple in size. No joke here, look it up

  42. CLASSY?!?!?!? YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT CLASSY?!?!?!! CLASSY is the D battery that was thrown into the UNLV section at Mackey Stadium that put my buddy in the hospital because it broke his cheek bone and lost vision out of his left eye! THATS CLASSY! Classy was the water bottle thrown at John Robinson by a CLASSY reno fan. Classy is what Reno is ALL about. "A rare UNLV victory to be sure"?!?!?! I love the "fish tail" that is Reno's football team. They have a 21-15 advantage in the rivalry, a mere 6 games that only got that bad because of the 5 year mistake that was Mike Sanford. They also have a 55-19 disadvantage in basketball. But geez WPF, whos counting? A 6 game difference in the rivalry and all of the sudden UNLV has "rare wins". How about Reno's bowl about rare. Ault should have a nightly show here in town because he is the biggest illusionist in the state. He has Reno believing in his smoke and mirror tricks. How many bowl games have you won since hes been back???? ONE. How many time have you beat Boise since hes been back???? NONE. He beats the hell out of all the crappy teams (UNLV having been included in this) and can't beat teams with talent....NONE OF THEM. The man has lost to every BCS school he has faced since he took over...again. But for some reason these reno fans think they have something special. Hell, for as awful a coach as Sanford was, he beat 2 BCS schools. One on the road...ranked in the top 25. But you reno fans are just like BYU basketball fans. You beat up on cupcakes and gobble up meaningless routs and then fall on your face in the post season....yet still think that "you'll get em next year". I'm stoked for the new additions to the conference. I love to hate UNR. But the worst thing that could have happened to Ault was that UNLV fired Sanford. Now we MIGHT play SOME defense...maybe.

  43. Since people are bashing each others universities I think I will chime in. We are the University of Nevada. Thats right NEVADA. We all know that drives all you college of Southern Nevada fans crazy. Even your newspapers wont call us Nevada. Man talking about an ugly campus, UNLV takes the cake. Nothing but concrete and a few palm trees. Have any of you Rebel fans walked the Nevada campus. Its like night and day between the two. The only thing I will give you is Thomas and Mack and your new basketball practice facility. It will be fun to be part of the MWC to keep this rivalry and bitterness with the North and South. GO PACK!!

  44. For one it's NEVADA and has been with athletics since 1874. It was Nevada academically until a meeting with the board of regents and they changed it without proper representation from the University of Nevada. Thus, adding the ",Reno" to the University's title. You can check the meeting's minutes if you like. Also, Nevada is a Tier 1 school ranking 191"think about the thousands of colleges in this country. We also have several top rated programs; journalism, engineering, medical school, and the MBA program to name a few. UNLV has"hotel management and law school. UNLV is a Tier 2 school and did not even make the ranking. We may not have a national title in basketball, but we have had several appearances in the NCAA tournament, even a sweet 16. We even won a split WAC football title a couple years back. So when it comes to athletics RGJ you better start calling us NEVADA, not UNR or Nevada, Reno. Las Vegas is the only place in the country that has ever referred to Nevada athletics as something other than Nevada. Plus Reno is the most drunk city in the country accoring to some ranking, we definatly party harder! Go Wolf Pack, NEVADA for life!

  45. Damn AJ_C you got some steam coming out. Sux about about your friend, I've seen ugliness on both sides. A lot. The rivalry needs to be classed up, and that takes intelligent football fans.

    I'm just busting yer balls, man. Simma down... It's good to have a rivalry that means something.

    Just so you know, I've been calling for Ault's head for years. He set the program back with his hirings of horton, then Tisdel, then tormey + his coaching failures in big games. All busts. But you know what? At this point I'm willing to give him one or two more years to do it right, to correct the wrongs, because I think he can pull it off, and because he's earned it. And that scares you.

    Not sure what fishtail means, but is that kinda what sam boyd stadium smells like in the morning after a particularly brutal loss?

    It's all good. As Mills Lane would call it: "Let's get it on!"

    See ya Oct. 2nd

  46. Sam Boyd hosts a bowl because its in a big-ass city and because the stadium has lights. nothing more. Has really nothing to do with the school.

  47. Hey stl you guys prefer to be called Nevada. Here's the problem there's people out there outside the state that watch games out here football or basketball. I got people from other places when they saw Nevada when they made that sweet 16 run in basketball. They thought it was UNLV made it and not you guys. Mistaken identity I mind you. No matter what people say our newspapers or ESPN I will always refer to you guys as Reno. You guys may have a great campus and its beautiful too. But Ive been to better ones. But hey we meet again Wolf Pack vs Rebels. This time we play in the MWC along with the cannon.

  48. "And who wants to hang out in downtown Reno anyway? I don't care how close it is"

    What, all of a sudden you got class and need something more upscale than downtown Reno? what do you need? It's got booze, gambling, strip clubs, Triple AAA baseball. what? you need to see a huge guitar or a pyramid or a green lion to be entertained? Get over yerself, vegas. The Eiffel Tower Experience? Really? OK...

  49. @chav702: The world will know which school is the 'real' Nevada soon enough. That's none of your concern.

  50. Here is the harsh reality for Reno fans........drum roll please.......reno has won as many rivalry games AND bowl games in the last decade as UNLV......WOW....aren't you glad Ault has really turned things around for you? 1 Bowl victory and 5 Freemont cannons each. Things are really on the rise there. REMEMBER PEOPLE, THESE ARE THE NUMBERS THAT COUNT. Oh, I guess you can count the one "Co-Conference Championship" in their favor.

  51. And its a GOLD lion......LOL.

  52. chav702 -- That sweet sixteen run did help us on a national level. I agree. But if you guys do beat us for the cannon please dont vandalize it again. Have some respect. Oh yeah, any word on Trevon down there? Is Kruger going to let him play? Without him you all might be in some trouble. If UNLV basketball was so good then why cant you guys land all those studs from Findlay Prep?

  53. How many players has Kruger sent to the NBA since he has been a coach at Southern Nevada? We sent two just this year alone.

  54. Forbes magazine just named Vegas as the most stressed out city in America. Man whats wrong with all you Vegans? You all just need to relax.

  55. Oh gimmie a break. UNLV & UNR ? Aren't they both like the 13th grade. TROJANS !!!

  56. HAHAHA.. thanks for the laugh, guys. At least there can be some banter in this rivalry without religious nonsense being brought into it or BYU fans pretending to keep it clean while sticking knifes in people's backs.

  57. @GWP - can you google the series record between UNR and UNLV and let us all know what that is?

    Hint: UNR has not dominated UNLV in football as much as you'd like everyone to think. In fact, it's rather even. And so to recap, UNR fans' boast about their 'great' football program's barely over .500 record against what everyone widely considers as one of the worst college football program in D1 football?


  58. go_wolf_pack,

    Give it up. I don't know how many posts you made, but no one cares about your opinions. After you called us "hillbillies," (way back when) you lost all credibility, and you KNOW it. I don't think there is one person from Reno that can ever call anyone a hillbilly.

  59. You can tell you are irrelevant, or from Reno, if you consider Vegas a "big-ass city" and the fact that Sam Boyd has lights impresses you...

  60. LOL @ RebelAlum44!

  61. Reno's a pretty big city too

  62. @RebelAlum44 & @teach5:

    Actually I live in Los Angeles now, not Reno, so I know a thing or two about 'big city livin' and at no point did I say your crufty old stank stadium impressed me. If you think that a crap-caked toilet surrounded by cement in the middle of the desert is impressive, well, that's your prerogative, but I didn't say that.

    And the fact is, LV is a big-ass city. I didn't say it was nice, just big. Generally when you have close to 2 million people in a county and over half a million in a city, that can accurately be described as big. Actually, Reno is a nice, perfect-sized town with Lake Tahoe right around the corner. Beats that oven of minimum-wage despair down South.

    And yeah, ya'all got your fair share of redneck, hill-living people down South. Denial doesn't eliminate the truth. Kinda like your programs sucking. Truth hurts. But it's still the truth.

    And honestly, you must care about my posts somewhat, because you took the time to comment on how many I've made, while addressing me specifically. Go figure...and GO Wolf Pack!

    Been nice chatting with all you, but I got things to do. Nevada grads actually have jobs in this recession, and some of them, like me, actually own the company.

    Living large and in charge. Yet another positive by-product of receiving a quality UNR education.

  63. SDSU alum here. Hate to lose Utah and BYU but I'll settle for Fresno State and UNR. Lots of good interstate and intrastate rivalries available in the new MWC.

    Of course we could add some other schools if the WAC falls apart completely.