Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Mountain West to merge with Conference USA

[5/4/12] Both the Mountain West and Conference USA announced expansion plans today.

The Mountain West said San Jose State and Utah State will join the league in July 2013, which will give it 10 football-playing members. Currently, the league consists of Air Force, Colorado State, New Mexico, UNLV and Wyoming, with the Fresno State and Nevada coming aboard in July, and Hawaii becoming a football-only member on the same date.
Mountain West schools San Diego State and Boise State are joining the Big East for football next year.
The WAC, which once had 16 football teams, could be left with only New Mexico State and Idaho after next season. As for the Sun Belt, the league recently added Texas State and Georgia State as football members starting in 2013 in anticipation of losing two schools.

Conference USA announced today that it is adding five new schools in 2013.
Commissioner Britton Banowsky said Charlotte, Florida International, Louisiana Tech, North Texas and UT-San Antonio will join the league in all sports, with Charlotte joining in football in 2015.

Charlotte is rejoining Conference USA after several years in the Atlantic 10. Louisiana Tech has been in the WAC since 2001, and UTSA will play in the WAC next year before joining CUSA. FIU and North Texas will be leaving the Sun Belt Conference.

Current CUSA members include East Carolina, Marshall, Rice, Southern Mississippi, Tulane, Tulsa, Alabama-Birmingham and UTEP.  Conference USA will lose Houston, SMU, Memphis and Central Florida to the Big East in 2013.

Banowsky says Conference USA and the Mountain West continue to discuss a merger and expansion remains a possibility. 

*** [2/14/12]

The Mountain West, which UH is scheduled to join as a football-only member in July, will dissolve and merge with the remnants of Conference USA in 2013 to form an as-yet-unnamed "super conference" of at least 16 members, according to announcements Monday.

Most of UH's other sports will compete in the California-based Big West beginning in 2012 as the Warriors leave the Western Athletic Conference after 33 years.

Increasingly ravaged by defections, the MWC and C-USA will repackage as a regionally based association July 1, 2013, that officials say is designed to provide enhanced stability and marketing opportunities. Expansion to as many as 18 to 24 members is a possibility.

Besides UH, the schools involved are the Air Force Academy, Ala­bama-Bir­ming­ham, Colo­rado State, East Caro­lina, Fresno State, Marshall, Nevada, Nevada-Las Vegas, New Mexico, Rice, Southern Mississippi, Texas-El Paso, Tulane, Tulsa and Wyoming.

Already there is speculation that Temple University of Philadelphia and Miami-based Florida International may be asked to join.

Talks between the two midmajor conferences, then totaling 22 members, gained momentum last summer as a football-only union. But as the defections began to mount, discussions shifted to an all-sports amalgamation. San Diego State, Boise State and Texas Christian will depart the MWC by 2013, while C-USA loses Memphis, Central Florida, Houston and Southern Methodist.

Initially, at least, plans call for two geographically based divisions that Scott Cowen, Tulane president and C-USA chairman, said "will look fairly similar to the way the Mountain West looks now and C-USA looks now."

UTEP, a former Western Athletic Conference member now in C-USA, is expected to move into the West.

But Cowen said, "Over time we definitely anticipate there will be some crossover games," meaning teams from western and eastern divisions would eventually compete against each other.

Cowen said plans call for not only a championship game in football, but semifinal contests as well.

Smatresk said, "This is an exciting development that will stabilize the current conferences and create the first truly national conference with members in five time zones and television viewership from coast to coast and on to Hawaii."

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