The Mountain West Conference didn’t want to wait for all the dominos to fall before acting. So the conference grabbed Boise State to become a 10-team league. And they may not be done yet. Thompson said the league has discussed a 10-, 12- and 16-team model. That includes monitoring the possible changes in the Big 12.
“Depending on what might transpire if something does change in the Big 12 membership in the coming days or weeks, it’s something we’re going to watch and monitor,” Thompson said in a conference call with reporters Friday afternoon. “I don’t think there’s any given that we’re definitely going to 12. There’s no given that we’d go to 16. There’s no assurance that we’ll remain at 10.”
Thompson was asked specifically about Kansas and Kansas State and said he had not talked to those schools, but that someone with Mountain West Conference probably has. He said they’ve discussed things with a “number of institutions” around the country, which would include the Big 12. Should the Pac 10 grab the handful of teams discussed from the Big 12 South, the Mountain West could be in position to try to grab the Big 12 leftovers. Thompson didn’t speak to that directly, but said the league is paying close attention to all possibilities.
“Are we best being a 10, 12 or 16 or something in between?” Thompson said. “We may be done, but we anticipate continuing the dialogue that started even yesterday and well into today with ADs and board of directors with institutions. I know we are continuing to look to grow the Mountain West Conference.”
Thompson said that one factor was showing current members that the league was proactive and committed to staying strong, knowing that other conferences may try to lure current MWC teams.
“We’re trying to build as good a place to land and to stay for those nine,” Thompson said. “With the addition of Boise State, we can. That was something discussed. Let’s get as strong as we can and become as attractive a conference as we can.”
It’s not very difficult for member institutions to leave the Mountain West. The league has no penalty for exiting the league. If a member tells the conference by Sept. 1 that it’s leaving, they get their full revenue distribution share nine months later.
“We feel why would we force someone’s hands or throw a financial impediment at them?” Thompson said. “You want to be a part of this or you don’t.”
Thompson said his No. 1 priority is getting an automatic BCS bid and that adding Boise State helps his league do that. The Mountain West Conference is halfway through a four-year evaluation period to determine an additional conference berth to the BCS and they are in good shape to earn that spot. Adding Boise State only bolsters their case. It gives the league two teams that have won two BCS games – Utah and Boise State – and three teams that have played in BCS games as at-large candidates (TCU is the other one).
Once all of the conference realignment dust has settled, Thompson said the league will look to renegotiate its TV package. But the conference has five years remaining on its current deal and Thompson said the contract states that there’s a renegotiation, but not a termination to the deal. So the full benefit of adding any additional teams in regards to TV revenue remains a few years away.
If the league stays at 10 teams, it has not decided whether each team would play all nine other members. Thompson said he’s in favor of doing that, but that would come up for a vote. Nothing will happen on scheduling until the number of institutions in the Mountain West by the 2011-12 academic year is determined.