As the idea of a merger with Conference USA appears to fade more and more as time passes, the Mountain West made moves of its own last week, finalizing plans to add both Utah State and San Jose State as full members in 2013.
The move came a little more than a week after C-USA added Florida International, Louisiana Tech, North Texas, Texas-San Antonio, Charlotte and Old Dominion, giving it 14 members moving forward and likely the intent of remaining as its own entity.
With Utah State and San Jose State coming aboard, the Mountain West will now have nine all-sports members by 2013-14 — UNLV, New Mexico, Colorado State, Air Force, Wyoming, Nevada-Reno, Fresno State and the two newcomers — and 10 in football, with Hawaii joining solely as a gridiron member.
Good move? Bad move? No opinion, really? Well, here are three key talking points surrounding last week’s latest news involving conference realignment.
1) Adding Utah State is quietly outstanding
Utah State will prove to be a quality add both in football and men’s basketball.
After years of being a WAC doormat in football, Gary Andersen has finally helped the program turn a corner. Last season, the Aggies went 7-6 and made their first bowl game appearance since 1997. They have the potential to win big again in 2012. Andersen came to Utah State in 2008 after a stretch as Utah’s defensive coordinator from 2004-08, so he’s familiar with much of the Mountain West terrain he’s coming back into.
On the hardwood, though, Utah State has been one of college basketball’s best kept secrets for almost two decades, and it will help the Mountain West make up for the pending loss of San Diego State. In 14 seasons under Stew Morrill, the Aggies have averaged just over 24 wins per season and made eight NCAA tournament appearances. A move from the WAC, though, will give Utah State more leeway in terms of landing an at-large bid each season. There’s no reason to believe the program won’t continue to win big in the MWC, where it will immediately have one of the league’s toughest home venues for opponents to visit.
2) San Jose State can help in terms of strength by numbers
Of what was left of the WAC to poach from behind Utah State, San Jose State definitely has some advantages over New Mexico State and Idaho — both of whom reportedly made pitches to join the league, as well. Aside from being in a more accessible location, its addition means that the Mountain West will still have some sort of presence in California. Both San Jose State’s men’s basketball and football programs have had minimal success in recent years, but of the available candidates for a 10th member, it’s probably the best fit. A more attractive league affiliation should help bolster its athletic department as a whole.
3) Could this lure others back?
Well, it’s certainly a possibility. If San Diego State (Big East for football, Big West for everything else) and Boise State (Big East for everything) bolt, the league is protected somewhat in terms of overall quality, and is definitely safe in terms of numbers. But nothing is set in stone just yet. The Big East is still somewhat of a mess and unless a lucrative TV deal is locked down soon, both could end up heading back to the Mountain West, which would make the league among the nation’s strongest in many ways. Also, those two coming back could help the Mountain West then land a pretty sweet new TV package of its own, with valuable commodities such as SDSU basketball and Boise State football back in the fold.