Most of the national discourse surrounding conference expansion and realignment this summer has focused of the Power Five conferences, after USC and UCLA elected to leave the Pac-12 for the Big Ten.
Last fall it was largely Group of Five conferences that saw the shakeup, as the American Athletic, Sun Belt and Conference USA all lost and/or added teams, following Oklahoma and Texas’ announced departure from the Big 12.
One of the few conferences that has gone untouched in the latest round of realignment is the Mountain West Conference.
As it turns out that isn’t for a lack of trying, just not on the Mountain West’s part.
On Wednesday, at Mountain West media days — as reported by the Idaho Statesman’s Ron Counts — conference commissioner Craig Thompson said that several schools — six to 12— have been in contact with the conference and have expressed interest in joining an expanded MW.
Thompson also noted that the MW doesn’t “have to do anything,” at the moment, but is aware of the options available to it, in the event further realignment happens.
“The options would be, No. 1 — to stay at the number if we were to lose members. No. 2 — to add members. Or No. 3 — to merge (with another conference),” Thompson said in video captured by @KHONnews.
“Go back about a decade ago, we talked about merging with Conference USA,” Thompson said. “We had several talks at the board level, had a consultant of media partners and gave it a good look way back when.
“It did not go to fruition. Instead, we opted to expand the Mountain West Conference and Conference USA expanded their membership. My point is, (conference realignment) is something we talk about constantly.
“With many of the things (that happen), we will have to be reactionary. There are things out of our control. There has always been an inequity financially. There are budgets in Division I athletics that are exceeding $200 million and there are budgets in Division I that are less than $50 million.
“That is a bigger concern on a national scale. We want to play at the highest level that football allows and since we had six institutions start playing football in the 1890s, it is a very important sport to us. We will hope to maintain that status and continue along and play in whatever, depending on CFP and bowl structures.”
Wednesday wasn’t the first time Thompson has let on that teams have approached the MW about potential membership.
In early July, during an interview on KOA 850 AM and 94.1 FM, Thompson expressed optimism about the current standing of the MW, and speculated that there could be Pac-12 or Big 12 teams that come calling, in the event of more realignment.
“We solidified ourselves,” Thompson said. “Some of our institutions had an opportunity to leave a year ago and join the American and opted to stay, and I think that was a smart move.
“I think we’re not necessarily going to wait and see, but there could be some Big 12 schools, there could be some Pac-12 schools that would be interested in the Mountain West Conference.
“There’s always a host of institutions either currently in the FCS or others, that we get constant phone calls. I think I probably fielded three or four calls from institutions this week saying, ‘Hey, don’t forget about us if you’re looking to expand’. But I don’t know that that’s in our best interest at this very moment.”