Mountain West won't fight big teams, big money

ccripe@idahostatesman.comJune 5, 2014 

The Mountain West won't stand in the way of the five power conferences' bid to spend more money on student-athletes even if it is unable to match the upgrades.

The conference presidents met Sunday through Tuesday in Colorado Springs, Colo. They released a statement saying the NCAA governance reforms that could be approved in August are "directionally correct."

"If you have the resources, it shouldn't be our place to say no, you can't spend it on that because that will be hard-pressed for us to match that," Commissioner Craig Thompson said Wednesday.

Boise State President Bob Kustra blasted the reform movement last month. He told the Idaho Statesman through a spokesman this week that the Mountain West presidents have agreed not to comment on the reforms "while they are engaged with ongoing talks with their conference partners."

The remaining concern, Thompson says, is that many of the proposals lack definition. For example, it's unknown whether cost-of-attendance scholarships - an upgrade that could cost Boise State $3,000 each - will be provided to all student-athletes or just those in revenue-producing sports.

The Mountain West also wants to make sure the power conferences - the SEC, Big 12, ACC, Pac-12 and Big Ten - don't get carried away with changes. An increase in the number of football scholarships allowed, or permitting football players to transfer freely, could strip conferences like the Mountain West of talent.

The key to the reforms is the ability of the top leagues to establish rules on their own, without interference from those with lesser resources. The high-resource schools are a minority in Division I.

"Directionally correct is good language because generally, yes, we're agreeing, but the devil is in the details," Thompson said. "… The things that help the student-athlete welfare - time off, less travel, the joke of 20 hours a week of practice, we do have to address that, we're all in total favor of that."

The commissioners of the power conferences have turned up the heat in recent weeks, suggesting they'll do something as drastic as create their own division within the NCAA if they don't get their way.

That idea has been called Division IV.

"There are compromises abundant that we can reach that everybody can say, 'That works for me. It's not 100 percent of what I wanted, but that works for me,' " Thompson said.

BOISE STATE TOPS MW PAYOUTS

The Mountain West will distribute $29 million to its member schools for 2013-14, Thompson said. That's the second-largest distribution in conference history.

Boise State will receive $3.7 million, the most of the league's 12 members. That's because the Broncos received a league-high $1.6 million in TV bonuses.

The lowest distribution for a member receiving a full share is $2 million. Three members receive less than a full share - Hawaii (football only) and newcomers Utah State and San Jose State.

A NEW FOCUS

After several years of tumult, the Mountain West spent much of its meeting on a forgotten subject.

"The stability was encouraging to say the least," Thompson said. "We spent just a lot of time on how we now can grow the league. We talk about SWOT - strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. And we've had a document that's really been sitting on the shelf for two years. We've been so immersed in just surviving and having a league that now we can get back to how do we get better."

'STRATEGIC SCHEDULING'

The presidents discussed the need for "strategic scheduling" in football and basketball to enhance postseason opportunities, but did not reach any conclusions.

"Play good competition and win games - that's ultimately how we'll make our mark," Thompson said. "We had a record six bowls last year. If we could play in a New Year's Eve bowl in the new College Football Playoff, that's the goal. That's the destination, and how do we position ourselves to get there."

OTHER NOTES

• The Mountain West would like to partner with the American Athletic Conference in scheduling. "I don't know what that means," Thompson said. "Conceptually, we think those are good opponents."

• The football title game will be played at the stadium of the division winner with the highest ranking from the CFP committee. If neither team is ranked in the top 25, the old BCS computer rankings will be used.

• Two MW student-athletes participated in the meetings for the first time, a sign of things to come. The representatives were New Mexico track and field's Kendall Spencer and Air Force volleyball's Emma Dridge.

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