Mountain West presidents focusing less on expansion, more on operations

MW commish also expects a 'healthy exchange' with NCAA president Emmert.

ccripe@idahostatesman.comJune 2, 2013 

Mountain West presidents will focus more on the minutiae of running a conference and less on splashy topics like expansion at their annual meetings Sunday and Monday in Colorado Springs, Colo.

The Mountain West enters the 2013-14 school year with 11 full-time members - including newcomers San Jose State and Utah State - and football-only member Hawaii. Expansion is not on this week's agenda, commissioner Craig Thompson said in an e-mail response to questions submitted by the Idaho Statesman.

Among the topics that require some decision-making by the presidents: the digital network that will expand the live video of events available to fans and the format for the basketball tournaments. The basketball format could be announced from the meetings, Thompson said.

The presidents also will discuss the debate surrounding cost-of-attendance and multi-year scholarships, which the conference is studying. Many members of the five power conferences are pushing to offer athletes more scholarship money - a key issue in the speculation that those five conferences might split from the rest.

And NCAA President Mark Emmert will attend Monday's meeting. Emmert and the NCAA have been under fire from members for their handling of infractions cases and a stalled attempt to deregulate recruiting.

"We … look forward to a healthy exchange between the membership and the NCAA," Thompson said.

Here are other notes from Thompson. Boise State President Bob Kustra was not made available for comment.

• On the Mountain West's place in the new College Football Playoff postseason format, which begins in 2014-15: "We should be in a position every year to contend for the guaranteed bowl slot reserved for one of the five champions (of the Mountain West, American Athletic, Conference USA, Mid-American or Sun Belt conferences)," Thompson said. "… I've been a playoff supporter for years and think the Mountain West is positioned well."

• On the Mountain West's chances of cracking football's new final four: "It is very achievable for our membership. Our current scheduling philosophy should serve us well."

• On why he thinks the playoff could expand beyond four teams before the 12-year contract expires: "Teams that get left out and the opportunity for even greater rights fees."

• On the Mountain West's take from the new playoff: Thompson expects the league to receive $8 million to $10 million per year more under the new system. That increase would double if the Mountain West is the top-rated conference among the five outsiders and places a team in a major bowl, he said.

• Thompson has reached out to the Pac-12 about a partnership. He said that likely would involve basketball officiating and continued non-conference scheduling. On opening weekend alone this year, Boise State (Washington), Utah State (Utah), Nevada (UCLA), Hawaii (USC) and Colorado State (Colorado) face Pac-12 football teams.

• On bowl agreements for 2014 and beyond: "Undoubtedly we will stay in the bowl games played in our home stadiums, and there is no indication at this point as to who will fill the other sides of those games. We are still debating the right number of bowl tie-ins, possibly six guaranteed annually to go along with the possibility of a team moving up into a New Year's Eve bowl or semifinal game." The Mountain West has six tie-ins this season, five of which are played in its stadiums - Las Vegas, Poinsettia, New Mexico, Hawaii and Famous Idaho Potato. The league also has a tie-in with the Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth.

• On the digital network, which was tested during the Mountain West baseball championship: "It is our intent to develop a digital network where fans can access games broadcast on the digital network by clicking a link on our website or pushing a digital network app button on your mobile device, with no cost to the consumer."

• Thompson said negotiations are ongoing with CBS Sports Network for the football championship game, which debuts this season on Dec. 7. CBS Sports Network has the first right to the game, which is separate from the TV contracts in place with CBSSN and ESPN.

Chadd Cripe: 377-6398, Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat

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