Mountain West Football: Is Conference Expansion on the Horizon?

Michael ClineCorrespondent ISeptember 18, 2011

NEW ORLEANS - NOVEMBER 07:  Running back Donald Buckram #3 of the UTEP Miners at Louisana Superdome on November 7, 2009 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The NCAA realignment, which was present all of last year, has had a major revival. Huge reports have come out of four major conferences today about realignment that would make the Pac-12 (or Pac-16 in the near future) at the top of college sports.

Just today, the Pac-12 announced it was in the works to add Big 12 universities Texas Tech, Texas, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, making the west coast-based conference the biggest today. The ACC also stole Syracuse and Pitt from the Big East, sparking major concern for TCU, who was scheduled to jump from the Mountain West to the slightly smaller Big East in a year.

And earlier in the month, the MW held a meeting to discuss possible expansion. It seems the conference has determined that, in order to become respected, it must add two to four universities.

So, what does conference realignment mean for the Mountain West? Well, a few things. For one, in order to be relevant in college sports, you now must have 12 teams. The Mountain West may be a target for other conferences who may want to take a few from the MW as well.

Plus, the MW would greatly benefit from a 12-school conference. It would allow discussion for an Automatic Qualifying bid to a BCS Bowl Game, and would pave the way for a MW Championship Game.

But, where would the MW look for expanding. Right now, the WAC is barely holding its head above water. It still has Nevada, Hawaii and Fresno State, but the conference is set to lose these schools to its counterparts, the Mountain West Conference. The MW could look to the WAC, and add a few schools who may want an escape from the sinking ship.

Some schools that come to mind would be San Jose State, Utah State or New Mexico State.

The Big East, who will be home to the TCU Horned Frogs, will lose two football members to the ACC. This would leave the Big East with seven schools, including TCU. If things continue to deteriorate, as they have with the Big 12, TCU could possibly stay a member of the MW, though it is unlikely. 

The Mountain West could look to C-USA, and add SMU, UTEP, Houston or Rice. C-USA has always been a potential conference the MW could use to expand.

The MW could possibly look to the doomed Big 12, and add Iowa State or Baylor as well. The Big 12 is set to shrink to six universities, and the faster a conference acts to take the remaining schools, the worse it gets for the Big 12.

The Mountain West has lots to gain with an expansion of two or more teams. The addition of conferences and a Championship game would greatly boost revenue. The conference could also become an automatic qualifier for the BCS, giving other schools more incentive to join. Look for the MW to act quickly in adding two universities to the now 10.

UPDATE 9/19/11: The Mountain West and Conference-USA are now exploring a possible football-only merger. However, this next move makes more sense to the Mountain West. The MW is now looking into adding some of the remaining Big-12 schools, as well as some from the Big East. They have also extended a re-invitation to TCU, who is set to depart from the Mountain West into the abysmal Big East.