Let the MWC expansion begin
By Larry Birleffi
Published in the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle
Joining a definite trend and moving quickly during the last month, the powers that be of the Mountain West Conference apparently are all set to announce the admission of two new teams.
No one agrees on who the two teams will be, but they are believed to be Hawaii and Boise State, both of the Western Athletic Conference. They have outstanding records since the WAC peeled into its own league in the late-’90s.
Boise State will be a new experience for most of the teams in MWC, but not for the University of Wyoming, which lost to the Idahoans last fall in football and beat them in basketball. UW has played Boise State on and off in many sports for years.
Boise State has an athletic budget comparable to anyone in the MWC, and its football program draws between 25,000 to 30,000 fans per home game.
The same has happened to Hawaii since the days of the old WAC. Some its teams over the past few years have been regarded as sound as any of its better ones.
No one is speaking on the record about expansion until the presidents of the current MWC schools give the green light.
I suppose the Hawaii admission will be short on jubilation with UW officials and fans who have made the long trip across the Pacific Ocean for years. This is a tough, long trip. The sightseeing is short-lived when you must be ready to play one of your better foes and turn around and come home the next day to get ready for another game in four or five days.
But Hawaii has been working to get back into the original bunch since the ill-conceived idea of the 16-team WAC was implemented several years ago.
It is believed that with the Atlantic Coast Conference asking Miami, Boston College and Syracuse to join its ranks that changes among other leagues will come soon.
The college bowl format is behind the power struggle. If the Big East Conferences loses Syracuse, Miami and Boston College, what will this do to its status in the Bowl Championship Series?
I am among those who don’t relish the mess the colleges seem to be getting into. But the dye is cast, and it is a battle for status and money with the probability that the rich will get richer and the poorer will be scrambling more than ever.
One advantage, or challenge, that comes to having two more teams in the MWC is it will probably allow a 12th game to be played in football. This is going on now, but it isn’t scheduled as a regular deal.
Adding two more teams probably indicates that the long-rumored defections of Brigham Young and Utah would be less significant, and that the teams left behind if those schools bolted would present a strong and solid conference.
Larry Birleffi is a veteran columnist for the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle. His columns run every Tuesday and Thursday.