Dave Rice on MWC realignment: “UNLV transcends conference”

With San Diego State, Boise State moves appearing to be done deals, first-year coach says UNLV hoops will be fine

According to multiple reports that sprouted up on Tuesday morning, the Mountain West Conference will take two more major hits on Wednesday.

That’s when Boise State and San Diego State are expected to announce their intentions to head to the Big East conference as football-only members. In all likelihood, all of their other sports programs will look to find new homes in other West Coast conferences.

Both appear to be headed to their new homes in time for the 2013-14 athletic seasons, meaning that Boise State will compete in the Mountain West for just two years when all is said and done. SDSU is an original member of the Mountain West.

The moves are completely football-driven, as both schools will likely draw millions more in television revenue annually by removing themselves from the MWC’s current TV deal. Another major motivation is being part of a conference with automatic qualifier status to the BCS, should the Big East maintain its current AQ status following next season.

The future of the Mountain West is up in the air. Rumors of the football-only MWC-Conference USA merger turning into an all-sports deal are flying around left and right. The MWC could also try to poach replacement members from elsewhere on the West Coast.

Or UNLV could be looking to take its struggling football program, strong men’s basketball program and sizable TV market elsewhere.

UNLV athletics director Jim Livengood said on Tuesday that he won’t be commenting on the issue publicly until anything becomes official.

As for men’s basketball coach Dave Rice, he gave his reaction to the reports and what he sees in UNLV’s future following Tuesday afternoon’s team practice.

“The thing for me as the coach of the men’s basketball program is that, first, I have a lot of confidence in Jim Livengood and his ability to lead us through whatever the process may be,” he said. “I’ve always believed that you can control the things that you can control, and for our staff, that’s coaching and recruiting.

“The other thing is that we’re really excited about being in the Mountain West Conference, but having said that, I always tell our recruits, our staff and our team that UNLV transcends conference. And, so from that standpoint, whatever the Mountain West looks like a year from now, two years from now, five years from now or wherever we may be, our basketball program is going to be just fine. We just need to stay the course and do the things that we need to do.”

Given that the basketball program has been UNLV’s bread and butter for decades, that’s where the concern of many fans lies. With BYU having left the league after last season, losing San Diego State would mean that the Rebels would be losing a big-time basketball rival for a second year in a row.

Rice is taking a similar approach there, in keeping confidence that the program will be fine regardless.

“One of the downsides to all of the conference realignment that’s gone on across the country is just the loss of a lot of rivalries — I think that that’s just a frustrating thing for me as a fan, more than anything. I just love college athletics, and I think that’s one of the things that’s gotten lost in all that’s gone on.

“But, again, UNLV transcends conference, we have rivals, we’ll build new rivalries and we’re excited about where our program is and certainly looking forward to where our program will be in terms of the quality of it. We’ll control the things we can control. We’ve got to recruit great and coach well, and we’ll be fine.”

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