Published Monday, Feb. 13, 2012 | 12:32 p.m.
Updated Monday, Feb. 13, 2012 | 2:38 p.m.
UNLV will compete in a new conference after next season.
Member schools of the Mountain West and Conference USA announced Monday they will dissolve their conferences and form a new league that would begin with the 2013-14 academic year.
The league will consist of at least 16 schools for football and 15 for all other sports. However, it may expand to 18 to 24 schools by the time it starts.
Conference realignment has created some bizarre situations — in two years San Diego State will be in both the Big East and the Big West — but this yet-unnamed league will be the first to span five time zones.
"We wanted to get in and make a bold statement. And do I like five time zones? You bet I do," UNLV President Neal Smatresk said. "From an institutional perspective, what we hope to see is that our teams our televised every week, multiple times a week. We want to project the brand of UNLV across the country."
The leagues are moving rapidly to create the new conference and Smatresk said an announcement about everything being put "pen-to-paper" is not too far away.
The conference will include at least UNLV, Air Force, Colorado State, Fresno State, Nevada, New Mexico, Wyoming and Hawaii (football only) from the Mountain West and East Carolina, Marshall, Rice, Southern Miss, Tulane, Tulsa, UAB and UTEP from Conference USA. In order to preserve as many regional rivalries as possible, the league will likely be split up into East/West divisions.
Fresno State, Nevada and Hawaii were already set to leave the WAC for the Mountain West next season, replacing TCU, Boise State and San Diego State. C-USA lost Memphis to the Big East last week, adding to the departures of SMU, Houston and Central Florida.
Some of the wrinkles that have been discussed include a championship football format that includes semifinal match-ups.
"A two-tier conference championship series would be a lot of fun and would, I think, elevate the winner into national prominence," Smatresk said.
The presidents and chancellors went into Sunday's meeting, Smatresk said, with the expectation that this would be the result. And moving forward, they're confident that each institution is striving for similar goals.
"As we form this new entity, we feel that we’re associated with like-minded institutions," Smatresk said. "We believe in equity — one institution, one vote — we’re run by presidents, not athletic directors, and our top order of business is to reverse this trend where it seems to be all about the money and to make it about the student-athlete."