The Nevada Wolf Pack football program’s future has changed once again.
The Mountain West Conference, which the Wolf Pack will join in 2012, and Conference USA have unanimously come to an agreement in principle to consolidate the 12 members of Conference USA and the 10 football-playing members of the Mountain West into one large football-only league.
“The role of a conference is to provide its members with the best possible environment in which to conduct their intercollegiate athletics programs,” said Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson. “Rather than await changes in membership due to realignment, it became clear the best way to serve our institutions was to pursue an original concept. The Mountain West and C-USA share a number of similarities, and the creative merger of our football assets firmly positions our respective members for the future.”
“The potential of this association is very exciting,” Conference USA Commissioner Britton Banowsky said. “By taking an innovative approach, we feel we can offer tremendous opportunities for exposure and stability without breaking up the regional rivalries that truly make up the college football tradition.”
UNLV President Neal Smatresk said, “In an era of uncertainty in intercollegiate athletics, this collaborative partnership with C-USA lends stability and credibility to our collective football enterprise. We are excited about the prospect of having teams in five time zones and the many possibilities created by this extremely bold and proactive step.”
The current 22 members are located in 16 different states. Conference USA has existing television partnerships with Fox Sports and CBS Sports, as well as ESPN for its championship game. The Mountain West has partnerships with CBS Sports and Comcast/NBC Universal.
The agreement forms a 22-school (for now) collaboration that would attempt to crown one football champion by way of a season-ending championship game. An ultimate goal of the move would be to gain automatic qualifier status from the Bowl Championship Series.
The C-USA/MWC alliance, which has yet to be named, could start as early as 2012 but no later than 2013, C-USA commissioner Britton Banowsky said. Banowsky and MWC commissioner Craig Thompson said it’s too early to tell if the alliance would result in the coveted automatic-qualifier status in the BCS.
“There is no indication that this means a guaranteed automatic bid. There’s no indication that it doesn’t,” Thompson said. “There just hasn’t been any conversation, depth or detail.”
Some of the alliance’s projected members could also change before the alliance begins. CBSSports.com and the Associated Press reported Friday that Boise State and Air Force of the MWC and Navy would be invited to the Big East as football-only members and that UCF, a C-USA member, would join in all sports. The organizations also reported that C-USA members SMU and Houston, along with Temple, were also under consideration for future invitations.
As its stands now, the alliance, if it begins in 2012, would include the following schools:
CONFERENCE USA: East Carolina, Houston, Marshall, Memphis, Rice, SMU, Southern Miss, Tulane, Tulsa, UAB, UCF, UTEP.
MOUNTAIN WEST: Air Force, Boise State, Colorado State, Fresno State, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, San Diego State, UNLV, Wyoming.