Conference USA & Mountain West Merges to Create New League

February 14, 2012

There likely will be one less Football Bowl Subdivision conference in 2013 after Conference USA and the Mountain West announcing they are working on finalizing a merging the two leagues.

The new unnamed league would include Alabama-Birmingham, East Carolina, Marshall, Rice, Southern Mississippi, UTEP, Tulane and Tulsa from C-USA and current Mountain West schools Air Force, Colorado State, New Mexico, UNLV and Wyoming.

WAC schools Fresno State, Nevada and Hawaii, which were planning to join the Mountain West in 2013, will also be part of the league, with Hawaii being a football-only member.

According to a joint release, the plan for the new conference would include 18 to 24 schools and hold a football championship format that includes semifinals and a title game.

Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson admitted the new league still has much to work out before the agreement is formalized.

“Today’s announcement is both a culmination of several months of discussion between the presidents and chancellors of these 16 universities and an historic starting point to forge a ground-breaking, new conference,” Thompson said in a statement. “There are a myriad of details and moving parts that will be finalized in the weeks and months ahead, but there is positive momentum toward long-term stability and a tremendous opportunity for all involved.”

The creation of the new league would look similar to structure to the Western Athletic Conference expansion to 16 teams in 1996 when it added Southwest Conference schools TCU, Rice, SMU along with UNLV, Tulsa and San Jose State.

Three years later, eight teams broke off from the league and formed the Mountain West because of concerns about revenue decline, loss of rivalries and travel costs.

Logistics should also be an issue in the new league. The football conference will span from Honolulu to Greenville, N.C., a distance of more than 5,700 miles. Other sports would see travel from western cities Fresno and Reno to eastern locations in Birmingham and Huntington, W.V.

by Ismail Uddin