CUSA & Mountain West Football Partnership Official
Over the past year, the Mountain West and CUSA have toyed with the idea of some sort of union. The idea first gained legs when Utah left for the Pac-10 and the Mountain West was then shocked with the sudden departure of BYU. At the time, it appeared that the WAC was going to make a power play, leaving the MWC with only 5-6 schools…and CUSA started thinking. As we know, the MWC would opt to expand with Boise St., Nevada, Fresno St, and then Hawaii for football only, so a merger with CUSA was not necessary.
But the two conferences continued to discuss their options.
The goal has been two fold:
1) To combine their resources in being able to better negotiate a higher revenue television contract.
2) To potentially convince the BCS that this new union of the top 2 non-BCS conferences is indeed deserving of a 7th BCS AQ bid.
By covering 16 states in 5 time zones, many will remember the failed WAC experiment. But in the age of large TV contracts, this group has a huge advantage. Networks are doing everything they can to gobble up broadcast rights for live college football content. And with NBC/Comcast in the mix now, it’s a 3 horse race with leader ESPN and FoxSports (Fox now also airs college sports on it’s FX and primary Fox networks) to drive up the price.
Also worth noting is that this is not a 22 school all-sports conference. This is 22 schools for football only. So unlike the WAC of the late 1990’s, Tulsa womens basketball won’t have to fly to Hawaii or any other odd conference travel outside of football.
The conference setup will simply have the CUSA winner play the MWC winner in a championship game.
The divisional lineups are yet to be decided, it still unknown is in the end, the CUSA division would be 12 CUSA schools while the MWC division had 10 schools. There remains the option to move a school to the MWC for balance at 11 each. That said, there is the risk of more schools leaving.
The announced merger comes at the same time that the Big East is looking for replacement schools, with candidates coming from both CUSA and the MWC.
So the 22 school football conference could be losing some schools.
At the time of this article, the Big East is set to invite such schools as:
Boise St. (MWC)
Air Force (MWC)
The top candidates for the Big East are Boise St., Air Force, UCF with only UCF for all-sports. It is believed that either SMU or Houston would be brought in for all sports for the 4th addition with Navy for football only. The 6th spot would then be between Temple for all-sports or football-only if the objections by Villanova are heard. If Temple is passed over, then the second Texas school would be invited.
So there is a good chance that CUSA would be down to 9-10 members and the MWC at 8 members.
The losses of schools such as Boise St., Air Force, UCF, Houston and SMU would be a negative.
However, these losses could actually help bring some balance to the new conference.
The MWC had been expected in invite Utah St. as a replacement for Boise St. or Air Force is they opt to go. But if CUSA were down to 9-10 members and the MWC at 8, the two conference would have the option to work together with something as simple as CUSA “sending” UTEP to the MWC (if UTEP agreed).
UTEP is located closer to MWC school New Mexico than any CUSA schools. And should both Houston and SMU leave, CUSA would have only Rice from the state of Texas, something that might make remaining in CUSA less of a priority.
So should CUSA and the MWC lose schools to the Big East, we could see:
SMU/Houston/UTEP/* North Texas
*UTEP/ *Utah St./*North Texas
The big question remains though: will the BCS grant this conference a BCS AQ? If Boise St. and the others remain, it would seem more likely as the conference would contain programs of equal BCS rankings to most of the remaining Big East football schools, with Boise St. at the top. However, without a national power like Boise St., the outlook would not be so rosy.