Viva Las Vegas. Hello, Reno.
In a copyrighted story Wednesday, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that the Mountain West Conference has reached a deal with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) to play its first three men's and women's basketball tournaments at the Thomas & Mack Center. The agreement also includes sending a representative to the Las Vegas Bowl for the next three years, beginning this fall.Though pending final approval by the LVCVA's board of directors on July 13, vice president Rossi Ralenkotter told the newspaper he doesn't anticipate a problem.
"We're the conference-championship city," he said. "The concept has been presented to them, and we've budgeted the dollars for the Las Vegas Bowl as well as the basketball championships."
Las Vegas officials will pay the MWC $790,000 for the 2000 basketball tournaments, with small increases each of the next two years. The football team will net the new league $750,000 in 1999 and $800,00 for the games in 2000 and 2001.
"I think our people have said consistently this is a city we would like to be involved with," MWC commissioner Craig Thompson told the newspaper. "It's a great destination. They've been a tremendous host (of WAC gatherings). They do a first-class job of putting on events. They know how to do things there."
League presidents also voted Tuesday not to expand membership beyond the current eight-team alignment (Air Force, BYU, Colorado State, New Mexico, San Diego State, UNLV, Utah and Wyoming) for at least two years.
However, their former home, the Western Athletic Conference, opted not to wait for expansion.
WAC commissioner Karl Benson was expected to announce that Nevada has been accepted as the league's ninth member. The Wolfpack, who currently reside in the Big West Conference (and will remain there until the 2000-2001 academic year), were added at the request of the league's Western-most schools Hawaii, Fresno State and San Jose State to give the conference a more equitable geographic split. The other WAC schools include Rice, Southern Methodist, Texas Christian, Tulsa and UTEP.
The Dallas Morning News reported Wednesday that Boise State, New Mexico State and Utah State were also considered but not offered membership. Nevada's departure leaves the Big West Conference with just six football-playing schools -- Arkansas State, Boise, NMSU, USU, Idaho and North Texas.
NOTEBOOK: The WAC announced that Fresno State will host its annual basketball tournaments in 2000 and 2001. Tulsa gets the nod in 2002 . . . WAC presidents spent 90 minutes Tuesday discussing whether or not to pursue breach-of-contract litigation against the Mountain West Conference. The new league officially beggins operating on July 1 . . . ESPN will likely broadcast the MWC men's basketball semifinals and championship game. The 2000 tournament is slated for March 9-11 . . . Negotiations are underway to move the Las Vegas Bowl from ESPN 2 to ESPN, beginning in 2000 . . . With the MWC champion ticketed for the Liberty Bowl, the Las Vegas Bowl will get the second choice (not necessarily the second-place team) each of the next three seasons.