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MWC ATHLETICS:

Analysis: Five programs a proactive Mountain West Conference should be looking at

If MWC does want to force its hand as college athletics landscape shifts, here are some options to consider

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Tiffany Brown

Mountain West Conference Commissioner Craig Thompson speaks at MWC football media day at Green Valley Ranch on July 22, 2008.

The Rebel Room

The conferences, they are changin' ...

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.

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Click to enlarge photo

Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore

The first domino has fallen.

Now, expect several more to follow.

The latter portion of this week has been peppered by news that the Big 12 Conference could be on life support.

Nebraska appears headed to the Big Ten. Colorado on Thursday announced that it has accepted an invitation to join the Pac-10 and could soon be reunited with former Big 12 constituents Texas, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, forming the nation's first true "super-conference."

Then there's the Mountain West.

In a press conference to conclude the summer meetings of the league's board of directors and university presidents Monday in Jackson Hole, Wyo., commissioner Craig Thompson said the decision was not to expand ... yet.

Rumors still swirl around the topic, Thompson said he could organize a conference call at a moment's notice any time soon and the world of college athletics already is shifting around the nine-member league.

Thompson said multiple times that the league's approach will be both reactive and proactive.

Well, here is a chance to be both, before some of the so-called bigger conferences come and try to eat up pieces of the MWC before the league can grow itself.

It wouldn't hurt at this point to discuss potential invites and then hand them out. What's the worst that could happen? They say no.

With all of that said, here are five schools that the Mountain West should be considering as the landscape rapidly changes.

Boise State

Current conference: Western Athletic

Why it makes sense for Boise State: The Broncos have established themselves without question as having the top football program from outside of the six conferences with automatic Bowl Championship Series bids. They've been to two BCS games, won both and are sick of the "cute little brother" tag in the college football family.

The next step is to compete for national championships, and the best way to do that is to somehow earn an automatic BCS bid. That means a change of conferences, away from the all-too-winnable WAC. And, don't forget, all of this change around the country over the last couple of days largely is tied to football.

Why it makes sense for the MWC: The Mountain West has some BCS success stories of its own between Utah and TCU, plus some other nice programs that have grabbed national attention, such as BYU and Air Force.

In order to get an automatic bid, the MWC has to grab more of them. In so many ways, Boise State makes perfect sense.

To boot, the geography of it works.

The likelihood of it happening: Pretty strong. If the Mountain West doesn't offer Boise State an invite before the school's July 1 deadline to notify the WAC of its intentions, Thompson could find himself in the face of some hefty criticism.

Click to enlarge photo

Fresno State head football coach Pat Hill

Fresno State

Current conference: Western Athletic

Why it makes sense for Fresno State: Pat Hill has quietly run another stellar football program in the college football shadows for the last 13 years. He's 100-66, has posted 10 winning seasons and made 10 bowl appearances. Of course, a defection from the WAC might be contingent on Boise State leaving, because if the Broncos are gone, the WAC's luster as a football league is all but gone.

Why it makes sense for the MWC: Adding quality, plain and simple. Plus, the athletic department has more to offer. Don't forget, Fresno State won a College World Series title in 2008.

The kicker? If this is all about drawing in TV revenue, Fresno is the No. 55 television market in the country. That may not sound impressive, but it's not too far behind Las Vegas, which is No. 42.

The likelihood of it happening: Pretty slim. It might be a bit far-fetched for this summer.

Click to enlarge photo

UNR quarterback Colin Kaepernick

Nevada-Reno

Current conference: Western Athletic

Why it makes sense for UNR: As another domino that could fall if Boise State eventually leaves for the Mountain West pastures, this would just make sense for UNR. A good football program, a pretty good basketball program, relatively competitive all-around and, again, a great geographic option.

Why it makes sense for the MWC: For argument's sake, let's say the Mountain West gets Boise State and Fresno State first.

This move would help the league corner the market on quality West Coast football programs not affiliated with the Pac-10 (or whatever it will be called). Also, this would bring in a longtime in-state rival of one of the current league members — UNLV. It can't be underestimated how much the MWC really could use another good dose of bad blood and tradition in the ranks.

The likelihood of it happening: Again, pretty out there for right now. But if Boise State hops on board eventually, who knows?

Click to enlarge photo

Kansas State head football coach Bill Snyder

Kansas State

Current conference: Big 12

Why it makes sense for Kansas State: If the Big 12 crumbles into a big pile of ash like it appears to be headed toward, Kansas State is a prime option here and someone the Mountain West should contact immediately.

Since the football program had its incredible run from out of nowhere throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, it has struggled to get back, even going as far as to hire back the coach responsible for that meteoric rise — Bill Snyder — at the age of 70.

It got to the point where K-State was out of its league in football in the Big 12 in recent years, and the Mountain West would be a fitting place for the Wildcats to again become bowl-game stalwarts and, well, relevant.

Why it makes sense for the MWC: Aside from having a good, name-brand football program thrown into the mix that has been to a BCS game before and won a Big 12 title, this also would be huge for the league's basketball profile.

K-State ran to the Elite Eight last year under third-year coach Frank Martin and hardly lost anyone. He's consistently getting players and is building a powerhouse in tiny Manhattan. Everyone struggling for respect in the league on the hardwood — UNLV, New Mexico, San Diego State, BYU, etc. — gets a big boost if this happens, as the Wildcats ranked seventh in RPI this past season. The Mountain West's highest team was BYU at No. 10, followed by no one until No. 39 (UNLV).

Want to talk money? This could be big from a TV revenue standpoint, as you could have major pull in Kansas City, which is the nation's No. 31 market. The league could also corner Wichita — another hotbed for K-State alums and fans — which checks in at No. 69.

The likelihood of it happening: Right now, it might be a 50-50 chance. Kansas is in no way tied to Kansas State, so if KU took a spot in, say, the SEC or Big East, K-State would have to then look at the Mountain West as, potentially, its best option.

Click to enlarge photo

Kansas head football coach Turner Gill

Kansas

Current conference: Big 12

Why it makes sense for Kansas: It likely does only if Kansas is left without an invitation to another current major conference, which appears to be an outside possibility.

For the sake of this analysis, we'll say that KU is completely abandoned.

College-basketball purists are sure to look at this as a major disservice to one of the five top programs in the country. But, remember, this realignment has nothing to do with basketball, really. It's about the earning potential that football possesses.

KU has some of that. Don't forget, the Jayhawks went 12-1 in 2007 and capped off the season with a win in the 2008 Orange Bowl. Since then, they've had a pair of so-so campaigns and a coaching change, but the potential is still there.

However, like K-State, KU was out of its league in football in the Big 12. The year the Jayhawks went 12-1, they didn't have to play Big 12 South powers Texas, Texas Tech and Oklahoma. If KU wants to maintain a solid, consistent football product, the Mountain West has to be looked at as a viable option.

The key, though, would be to sell Kansas on why it works for the school's cash-cow sport — men's hoops.

Why it makes sense for the MWC: How does it not? It would be a home run in every possible way, mostly by adding a top-flight basketball program to a league clamoring for legitimacy in the eyes of the nation. It's another pipeline into top TV markets, with strong KU alumni bases in places such as Dallas, St. Louis and Chicago.

The likelihood of it happening: If Kansas State is a 50-50, you'd have to say that Kansas is probably a 30-70 right now. The main reason is that Kansas's basketball program might be too much for, say, the Big East to ignore. If KU is left out there as a free agent, it won't be easy for the MWC to land it.

The sticking point more than likely would be the Mountain West's TV deal, which all but phases ESPN out of the picture. As it stands right now, KU plays on ESPN almost once a week, especially during conference play.

If KU came to the MWC, you'd have to assume that it would beef up its non-conference scheduling to keep pace with the other elites out there, and that's where a different TV deal would have to be in place.

It probably wouldn't be a very popular move — not right away, at least — with Kansas's fan base, which dedicates about 90 percent of its collective loyalty to basketball.

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  2. Add Baylor and Iowa State too.

  3. UNR? LOL, really? Nobody outside of Nevada cares about our rivalry, and most of the people in Vegas don't even care about UNR. If you're looking at expanding the MWC, selecting Reno is setting the bar pretty low. A much better option would be looking at the CUSA for either Houston or Tulsa or both.

  4. I agree with JahReb on the Reno option. That just weakens the conference. In addition to Boise I would go after K-State and Baylor. K-State for the reasons Ryan mentioned and Baylor because it would further enhance our reach into the Texas market for recruiting. I don't mind Houston or Tulsa but, no I would stop building at twelve schools. Our TV contract and the few dollars it brings in will be stretched too thin as it is. Boise is our best hope for some added BCS revenue and it is a shame they weren't already invited.

  5. I really like this idea... 5 major conferences of 16

    http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/columns/s...

    PAC16: Pacific - Texas
    Big16: North - South
    ACC16: North - South
    SEC16: East - West
    MWC16: West - Midwest

    Today should be an interesting day...

    MWC16
    Current 9 teams
    4 castoffs from the BigXII (Kansas, Kansas St, Baylor, Iowa St)
    3 from the WAC (Killing it off by taking Boise St, Fresno St, and Reno)

    BcS gaurntee invite to the Fiesta Bowl, plus a killer basketball conference!!!

  6. UNR belongs in the Big Sky. No way should we add them to the MWC. They add zero value. A three-year run in basketball three years ago does not make them decent at basketball. Football may be better than UNLV, but is pretty mediocre. No TV market to speak of. UNR adds nothing. It would drag down the conference. I'd much rather see Houston added.

    How about soon-to-be-homeless Missouri, along with K-state, long-shot Kansas, Baylor, Houston, Boise St., and Fresno as the list to choose from?

  7. No talk of Baylor? Looks like they are also very likely to be tossed aside like Kansas is. I'll take Baylor over any WAC team simply on the basis of having more Texas market.

    1st choice would be Kansas though. I know this is hugely about football, but the MWC could become a basketball powerhouse conference too (much like the ACC).

    Here's what I hope happens:
    Big-12 disintegrates, MWC picks up Kansas, K-state, Baylor, Boise St., drops Air Force or Colorado St. MWC-12 begins, but needs 2 divisions. (similar to SEC)

    Lets see what Nebraska does and if ND decides to come part of conference play (which I doubt)

  8. UNR totally makes sense, they have been solid in Football, Basketball, and Baseball. UNR is projected to have two first round draft picks in this month's NBA draft. They have a good program, and their football program is much better than UNLV. Boise brings an outstanding football program, but they are the WAC bottom feeders in basketball and they don't even have a baseball program.

    If everything falls into place like everyone is predicting, the MWC would be smart to go 16 and grab the five schools mentioned above.

  9. unr?

    no thanks.

    as bad as unlv has been in football, we've had as much if not moresuccess against bcs opponents.

    no on baylor too unless it's a package deal for the rest of the little 12.

    waco is no dfw

  10. we play them every year, it DOES make sense

  11. unr makes sense... geographically

    that's about it.

    look at their attendance

    look at their record vs the bcs

    look at their facilities

    unr has done nothing to deserve a mwc invitation

    they should be, at best, a contingency plan in a worst-case-scenario type situation if the mwc is raided and decimated.

  12. I wouldn't know who to cheer for if UNR and BYU played each other every year....think my head would explode!

    Any way two teams in the same game can both lose?

  13. @TRUE FAN-

    Someone from Las Vegas criticizing another school's attendance at football games is like an employee of the Moonlight Bunny Ranch calling a dancer in Jubilee a whore.

    If UNLV wasn't already in the MWC and the conference was looking at taking one of the Nevada schools it would probably come down to television market.

  14. If UNR is such a bad team, why can't UNLV beat them?

  15. BREAKING NEWS:

    Boise State joins the MWC!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Okay now where's our automatic BCS bid?

  16. WOOT! Welcome Boise St!

  17. Actually, Boise St. just won the WAC commissioner's award for highest point total for all sports, and that is without baseball. Colorado doesn't have baseball, would you not have taken them?

    We need to add teams that improve the conference, not compare UNR to the worst parts of the MWC. Yeah, UNLV football is awful. But basketball is a big money maker (top 20 in the country). Las Vegas is a destination city.

    UNR is mediocre in football. And yeah, two guys likely to be drafted in the NBA, but what did that get them? An NIT bid after back-to-back CBI appearances. No one cares about baseball or any other sport in all of this. Really football is the driver (see Kansas) along with television market size. Las Vegas is top 40, Reno is #110.

    And UNR football doesn't excite anyone. It would finish fifth in the MWC in a good year. We need to either add a school with a football team that can compete (Houston or Missou), a large TV market (KU with Kansas City, Missou with St. Louis and KC, Houston) or a huge national reputation in athletics (Kansas basketball).

    Fresno makes way more sense than UNR. They have a better name in football, get our teams in front of California recruits, and are the #55 TV market.

  18. so just because unlv football has terrible attendance, the mwc should look to add another team with pitiful attendance?

    anyone with a brain in their head can see what boise has done to EARN an invite.

    now compare that to unr.

    they have done nothing to deserve a mwc invite. the mwc is not and should not become some type of charitable organization to help the sorry remnants of the wac.

    rather than changing the subject and/or attacking unlv, why don't one of you offer up something to make the case for unr?

    you can't. because they bring nothing to the table but potential.harsh as it may be, what i stated about their attendance, facilities, and record vs bcs opponents is the undeniable truth.

    much better options than reno are and will be available.

  19. The only reason to have UNR join would be because of locale. Nothing more. Of course we will play them every year, same conference or not. They do not offer much to the other schools in our conference either.

  20. thank-you sofaking

    they do make sense geographically. too bad for them that's not even close to being enough.

    imo, we got the only team in the wac that was worth inviting. if we HAD to take one more to get to 12, 14, 16.... i say fresno over reno.

  21. Agreed True, Fresno excels in just about any aspect I can see over UNR at this time, and 10 years down the road.

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  23. Go figure.. Nobody in Vegas wants Nevada to join the MWC.. Since we have tapped that ass for how many years.. Boise and Nevada in UNLV's conference?? Rebels dont stand a chance. Maybe unlv could join the WAC and win a title..!!!!!! LMAO

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  25. if this is all based on football then UNLV should be dropped for more successful teams like UNR and Fresno state.... and as far as my memory is served its 20 yrs since the natl champ so a hoops powerhouse UNLV isnt anymore. and again this is based on football because they generate more $$$$$$$$$$$

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  27. Report: Mountain West eyes KU, Mizzou

    http://sports.espn.go.com/ncaa/news/stor...

  28. Exactly. Expansion IS based on football. Which is why reno was not considered and Boise is in the MWC.

    LOL at the desperation of these reno fans.

    Now that the MWC has decapitated the wac, they're coming up with all these crazy scarios that involve the the MWC 'dropping' its own members in order to make room for wac leftovers. OKEEDOKEE! Not going to happen. Especially not for the likes of reno.

    Better get used to the idea of being stuck in your rotting, headless corpse of a conference. As linked above, the MWC has its eyes on much bigger fish than reno.

    The wac is on its way to inviting FCS schools to try to survive. The MWC is on its way to AQ status and BCS money every year.

  29. @ dunerider

    Can you name me how many years UNR or Fresno st. hold a NCAA championship trophy in basketball or football?

    Then tell me how much longer both schools have been around since UNLV.

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