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Mountain West Conference doesn’t seem content to remain a non-Power league

The league announced a new strategic plan that includes a goal to become ‘the most highly respected, best-in-class national athletics conference’

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Gloria Nevarez, commissioner of the Mountain West, announced a new strategic plan this week.

Gloria Nevarez, commissioner of the Mountain West, announced a new strategic plan that includes a goal to become “the most highly respected, best-in-class national athletics conference.”

Eric Draper, Associated Press

As currently constructed, the Mountain West Conference is arguably the best non-Power Five (soon to be four) athletics conference in the NCAA, particularly when talking about college football.

There is an argument between the MW, the Sun Belt and the American Athletic conferences, but the MW is inarguably in the discussion for best Group of Five conference.

Include men’s basketball and the MW becomes the clear leader in the race between the three conferences that fall in the pecking order nationally behind the ACC, Big Ten, SEC and Big 12.

The thing is, the MW has bigger ambitions than the current status quo, laid out Tuesday with the release of a new strategic plan.

Officially titled “Ascend Together: Our Path To Excellence,” the plan lays out the ambitions of the MW moving forward.

“Our exceptional student-athletes, coaches and staff across the conference footprint continue to make us proud with their competitive and academic achievements. With profound changes currently underway in intercollegiate athletics and more likely to come, the Mountain West must continue to be adaptable and play an integral role in the national decision-making regarding what the future will look like.

“To that end, with the full support of the Mountain West Board of Directors and Directors of Athletics, we embarked on a several-month inclusive planning process that resulted in this strategic plan,” conference commissioner Gloria Nevarez said in a release.

As part of the plan, five “strategic priorities” have been laid out:

  1. Support Mountain West member institutions in providing student-athletes with a holistic experience in an exceptional environment.
  2. Position the Mountain West among the nation’s elite athletic conferences through success, innovation and brand enhancement.
  3. Enhance revenue generation and support for member institutions.
  4. Energize and engage Mountain West member institutions.
  5. Maximize effectiveness of conference operations.

Notable goals laid out by the Mountain West Conference

Each of the priorities includes multiple goals set by the conference, though some are more notable than others.

Among the more interesting goals set, the conference wants to:

“Enhance the collective national brand and media presence of the Mountain West to provide a platform for elevating the individual member institutions.”

  • In other words, the league wants to develop better relationships with national media, in order to increase media revenue (more on that in a bit) and increase fan interest in MW programs.

“Develop a comprehensive plan to ensure multiple conference teams are competing for annual berths in the College Football Playoff.”

  • Under current playoff expansion, the top-ranked Group of Five league champion will gain an automatic berth in the CFP. The MW wants that berth, of course, but also has clear designs competing for an at-large berth as well.

“Embrace and evaluate all opportunities regarding membership composition in order to maintain and enhance Conference competitiveness.”

  • The MW hasn’t been shy when talking about conference realignment, and recently came to to a scheduling agreement with Oregon State and Washington State for the upcoming college football season, an agreement that could continue in 2026 and may eventually lead to the Beavers and Cougars joining the league permanently. The MW clearly doesn’t intend to limit itself when it comes to membership, either.

“Actively and aggressively seek innovative revenue opportunities for the conference and its member schools, particularly through emerging sectors and new technologies.”

  • The Mountain West’s current media contract with Fox and CBS, which runs until 2026, pays out $4 million per school per year. That number is clearly not satisfactory for league members going forward.

“Work with current and potential broadcast and streaming partners to maximize revenue and exposure for the member institutions.”

  • Along those lines, the MW hopes to work with its current media partners — Fox and CBS — while also finding new media partners in order to increase the money that member schools have to work with. Currently, the AAC and the Sun Belt get $7 million per school from their respective television contracts.

“Ensure prudent fiscal stewardship of all conference revenue and finances, including effective management of league operational expenses, resources, and initiatives.”

  • In light of recent financial miscalculations made by the soon-to-be-defunct Pac-12 Conference, the MW wisely is focused on avoiding any financials pitfalls itself. Currently, Pac-12 schools owe Comcast a combined $72 million, while individual member schools are in dire straits due to their own miscalculations; Arizona, most notably, has $240 million less in reserves than originally calculated.

Will the MW be able to accomplish any of the goals it has laid out? That remains to be seen, but one thing is certain, the league has a clear direction and lofty ambitions.

“Our strategic priorities are supported by internal detailed objectives, goals, resources and timelines to ensure we collectively hold ourselves accountable for implementing the priorities, relying upon the conference staff to guide those efforts. This strategic plan will remain an important, vibrant and malleable roadmap for our many years of success ahead,” Nevarez said. “... Together, the Mountain West Conference can achieve all that it seeks to pursue.”

The complete strategic plan of the Mountain West Conference can be found here.