Tag:Conference Expansion
Posted on: January 19, 2011 12:19 pm
Edited on: January 19, 2011 12:48 pm

San Jose State is a target of the Mountain West

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Who knew that an entire conference could disappear right before our eyes?  That seems to be exactly what's happening to the WAC.  The conference has already lost Boise State, Fresno State, Nevada and Hawaii to the Mountain West -- which has been hemorrhaging teams of its own -- and now it seems like the conference could be about to lose another school.

According to a report in the San Jose Mercury News, talks have begun within the Mountain West about extending San Jose State an invitation.
San Jose State has emerged as a potential expansion target of the Mountain West Conference, according to sources familiar with discussions between SJSU officials and their counterparts in the MWC.
A longtime member of the Western Athletic Conference, San Jose State is one of several schools that could be invited to join the more prestigious MWC if the 10-team league expands by two in order to stage a football championship game.
The Mountain West’s board of directors is scheduled to meet Monday in Las Vegas. Expansion is on the agenda, but the league isn’t expected to issue invitations.
The other teams reportedly in consideration are another WAC school in Utah State, and three C-USA schools in UTEP, Houston and SMU.  Though, according to the source in the story, it's unlikely either Houston or SMU would leave C-USA.  Which makes San Jose State an attractive option to the Mountain West in the same way that the lone girl at the bar looks more attractive because she's the only girl there.

Though the Mountain West will tell you it's because of the television market that San Jose State brings for the Mountain West's television network, as well as the fact it'd be joining fellow California schools Fresno State and San Diego State in the conference.
Posted on: December 5, 2010 5:43 pm

Big Ten has no plans to expand further right now

Posted by Tom Fornelli

For the moment, it seems, Nebraska and twelve teams are enough for the Big Ten.  

The conference presidents and chancellors all got together for a pow-wow on Sunday afternoon to discuss the possibility of further expansion to the conference, and it seems that at the moment, everything is fine just the way it is.

Here is the press release that the conference released on Sunday.

This time last year, the COP/C believed that the time was right for the conference to explore the possibility of conference expansion and Commissioner James E. Delany was asked to provide recommendations for consideration over the next 12 to 18 months. The Big Ten began a thorough, deliberate evaluation and on June 11, 2010, the COP/C unanimously approved an application for membership from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.  Since that announcement, the conference has been actively engaged in incorporating Nebraska, both academically and athletically, into the fabric of the conference and all parties eagerly await the completed integration which will take effect in July, 2011.

During today’s meeting it was decided that it was appropriate to focus completely on conference affairs at this time. “We have been thoroughly engaged in the process since last December,” said COP/C Chair and Indiana University President Michael McRobbie. “Following detailed discussions at today’s meeting, my colleagues and I can report that we believe that this process has reached its natural conclusion. We are pleased with the addition of Nebraska and look forward to working with our colleagues there in the years ahead.”

Although the conference will continue to monitor the intercollegiate landscape, it will not be actively engaged in conference expansion for the foreseeable future and does not expect to be proactively seeking new members.

All of which is just a fancy way of saying that right now there don't seem to be any schools that the conference wants right now.  The key phrases come in that final paragraph of the release where it says things like "for the foreseeable future" and "does not expect."  Which just means that Notre Dame still doesn't want to party with them.

Still, should that change at some point in that foreseeable future, then you can bet that the Big Ten will look over the idea one more time.  And if Notre Dame comes to the Big Ten, then that means the conference will be looking for a 14th member as well.
Posted on: December 2, 2010 4:18 pm

Mountain West mulls expansion options

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

BYU may have wanted out, Utah may have wanted out, TCU may have wanted out, but the continuing expansion drama surrounding the Mountain West Conference has proven that there's still plenty of schools that would be happy to be in. The Honolulu Star-Advertister reported yesterday that Hawaii officials were in Colorado this week, speaking with MWC commissioner Craig Thompson and ironing out the final details of what appears to be a done deal to bring the Warriors aboard as a football-only member. (UH's other sports will join the California-based Big West. )

But the MWC may not stop there. According to this AOL Fanhouse report , Utah State officials have also been making a face-to-face plea to Thompson and Co. this week, asking for a MWC invite and a lifeline out of the lame-duck WAC . The Aggies won't bring much to the table in terms of football pedigree, but at least they've taken steps forward in recent years under coach Gary Andersen (including beating BYU this season for the first time in 10 tries) and can claim a sterling men's basketball program and solid academics.

USU's interest gives the MWC several options when it comes to expansion. Running them down:

They could stand pat at 10 teams . There seems to be little downside to bringing Hawaii aboard, especially in football alone -- the travel costs of visiting the islands are easily offset by the NCAA provision allowing teams a 13th scheduled game if they travel to Hawaii -- so it seems unlikely the MWC will suddenly stiff-arm the Warriors and stay at 10 teams. But few other immediate options will do much to raise the league's football profile, and weaker members on the gridiron could put the league's dream of a BCS automatic bid in jeopardy.

They could expand to 12 teams and start a championship game . A title game could be an excellent carrot for the MWC to dangle when they start looking to finally get out of the less-than-lucrative current television contracts that drove BYU into football independence. Utah State might be the most obvious candidate, but Conference USA member SMU would bring the highly attractive Dallas media market back into the league after TCU's defection, and under June Jones the Mustangs have made major strides on the field as well. With C-USA's chances of ever snagging a BCS bid set at "nil," the Mustangs would likely jump at the chance. The same goes for Houston , which is an even more distant geographical fit but features an even-better established football program and a similarly-lucrative market.
Other potential WAC refugees like Idaho or New Mexico State would also be options, but probably only in the event the BCS bid was already off the table and SMU and Houston had turned the league down.

They could merge with C-USA. This seems like a terrible idea from the MWC's perspective, but nonetheless the Orlando Sentinel reported today that Thompson and C-USA commissioner Britton Banowsky have had prliminary discussions about "a variety of potential collaboration options." But it's hard to see what, other than potentially a push for a joint TV contract, the C-USA can offer the MWC; the latter is the stronger conference top-to-bottom, has more brand recognition (compare the profiles of Boise State and even, say, Fresno State to C-USA powers like East Carolina and Southern Miss ), and already has the BCS bid process underway. If the C-USA is looking to create a full merger, it would seem to eliminate any chance of the league being powerful enough to wrangle a BCS bid; if all they want is an end-of-year title tilt, that's likely just one more obstacle in the way of a Boise or, well, Boise and a BCS at-large berth.

Butit's on the table, along with a lot of other possibilities for the MWC. Thompson has some very big decisions to make, decisions that will help shape the future of college football in the West for years to come.
Posted on: November 29, 2010 7:16 pm
Edited on: November 29, 2010 7:38 pm

TCU travel will remain largely unchanged

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Ever since the news broke that TCU will be joining the Big East, a lot of the reaction to the news has been that having a school from Texas in a conference called the Big East doesn't make a lot of sense.  The state of Texas is a lot of things, but being in the east isn't one of them.

Hell, when you think of Texas, you get visions of cowboy movies and the Old West.  Still, people who live east of the Mississippi River tend to forget that on the west side of that mighty river, there is a whole lot of land.  So, in an effort to show those who think that having TCU in the Big East doesn't make much sense that it's not as crazy an idea as they think, I did a little research.

I checked out the distance between TCU, located in Fort Worth, Texas, and the cities of the schools in the Big East and Mountain West.  Now, when using the Mountain West, I used the conference as it will look, not as it does now.

That means I took out Utah and BYU, and replaced them with Boise State, Nevada and Fresno State.  This is what I found.

Distance From TCU to Mountain West Schools

  • Air Force - 595 miles
  • Boise State - 1268 miles
  • Colorado State - 692 miles
  • Fresno State - 1,304 miles
  • Nevada - 1,338 miles
  • New Mexico - 560 miles
  • San Diego State - 1,153 miles
  • UNLV - 1,043 miles
  • Wyoming - 747 miles

Distance From TCU to Big East Schools

  • Cincinnati - 845 miles
  • Connecticut - 1,508 miles
  • Louisville - 754 miles
  • Pitt - 1,097 miles
  • Rutgers - 1,377 miles
  • South Florida - 946 miles
  • Syracuse - 1,352 miles
  • West Virginia - 1,078 miles

Now, the total distance between TCU and the schools of the new Mountain West is 8,700 miles, or an average of 966.7 miles per school.  In the Big East the total distance is 8,957 miles, or an average of 1,119.6 miles.

So, yes, there is a difference between the two conferences.  TCU will travel more for Big East games than it did for Mountain West, but we're not quite done yet.  Remember, the Big East isn't going to stop at TCU, it's going to add a tenth team.

The likely candidates for this are UCF and Villanova.  If Villanova joins the Big East in football the numbers grow a bit.  TCU would then have to travel an average of 1,142,8 miles per school.  If UCF joined, the average trip would lower to 1,105.3 miles per school.

So the difference remains, but it's not as big of one as you thought, is it?

There's also another factor we need to consider when it comes to TCU and its traveling schedule.  You see, in the Mountain West where you have to impress pollsters to get into a BCS game by playing respected programs, you have to travel in your non-conference schedule.  You have to take on the Oregon States, or the Virginia Techs.

Which adds to the travel.

In the Big East, though, this is no longer the case.  All you have to do to get to a BCS game in the Big East is win the Big East.  Which means that TCU can adopt the same strategy as every other BCS conference powerhouse, and schedule FCS sacrificial lambs during the first month of the season.

All of whom would be coming to Fort Worth, not the other way around.  Plus, if TCU kept an annual game with SMU, that isn't a long trip at all.  So, what the Horned Frogs would gain in frequent flier miles during conference play, they'd be saving a lot more miles at home during September.

So think about that next time the idea of TCU in the Big East blows your mind.

Posted on: November 29, 2010 4:53 pm

Thanks TCU: Mountain West BCS bid may not be dead

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

The idea of an athletics program from deep in the football-obsessed heart of Texas playing in a basketball-driven conference centered in the Northeast megalopolis seems weird enough. But what might be even weirder about TCU 's move to the Big East is that their current undefeated season will help both their new league hold onto their BCS automatic bid ... and their former conference home in the Mountain West in their effort to do the same. The New York Times ' Pete Thamel explains :
The Big East is locked into the B.C.S. through the 2013 season, as it is included in the television and bowl contracts. The automatic qualification criteria for the B.C.S. after 2014 have not been determined. If the Big East were subject to a review of its part performance, T.C.U.’s 2010 season would count for the Big East in that review.

Here is where things get bizarre. T.C.U.’s 2010 regular season will also go toward the Mountain West’s bid toward gaining automatic qualification status for the 2012 and 2013 seasons, which will be evaluated in December 2011 ...

The cycles overlap because the conferences created a new evaluation period to coincide with the television contract. To do that, they overlap for two years, according to the B.C.S. executive director, Bill Hancock.
With the Horned Frogs safely in the fold, barring a total collapse on their part and a total failure on the part of the rest of the league to improve on their dreadful 2010 (remember that Cincinnati went undefeated as recently as last season) it seems unlikely the Big East will be in any real danger of losing their automatic bid.

The bigger question is what happens with the Mountain West, who has been derided in many corners today as a glorified WAC 2.0 after gaining Boise State , Nevada, Fresno State and Hawaii but losing bellwethers Utah , TCU, and BYU . Thanks to the overlap in evaluation periods, however, the league appears to have a fighting chance at getting their long-awaited auto-bid after all. The combination of TCU's (as well as Utah's) excellent 2010 seasons combined with Boise's three-year 36-2 run back to 2008 (which Thamel explains will also count in the MWC's calculations) should give them a solid foundation. The new-look MWC middle class of rapidly-improving San Diego State , Air Force , and the three other WAC refugees will, at the least, be a substantial upgrade on the middle class of the old WAC and maybe even the current MWC if the Aztecs, Wolf Pack, and Warriors can build on their current success.

Will that be enough? It's probably still too early to say. But it's also too early to say, as many have in the wake of TCU's decision, that the MWC's dream of ascending to the ranks of the automatic qualifying conferences is dead just yet.

Posted on: November 23, 2010 11:26 am

North Texas turns down desperate WAC

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

These are dark times indeed for the WAC and commissioner Karl Benson , who have seen every step forward they've tried to take in the conference expansion wars followed by a giant step back. They thought they had forged a deal with BYU ; the Mountain West responded by poaching Nevada and Fresno State to push BYU into independence. They invited UT-San Antonio and Texas State to maintain their basic viability as a football league; then Hawaii responds to the two extra trips into the Central Time Zone by taking their ball and -- probably -- joining the MWC , too. 

That maneuver has left the WAC with just seven football schools again, one short of the mandated FBS minimum. The league's profile has sunk to the point where not only is the league looking to poach schools from the Sun Belt , the FBS's weakest, most tradition-deficient conference ... those schools are barely giving the WAC the time of day :
North Texas athletic director Rick Villarreal told WAC commissioner Karl Benson that the school has no interest in joining the league late Monday night, just hours after Benson called to gauge the school’s interest in leaving the Sun Belt Conference.

“I told [Benson] that while we appreciate the interest, the University of North Texas is going to be a member of the Sun Belt Conference and will work to continue building the league,” Villarreal said. “We appreciate the opportunity and wish them luck as they move forward.”
Keep in mind that that it's hardly like UNT is a pillar in the current Sun Belt; the coach-less Mean Green have been one of Division I's sickliest programs since a run of SBC titles in the early aughts. As the Sun Belt's only Texas team, they should theoretically also leap at the chance to forge natural rivalries with UTSA and Texas State, and there's little question that with strong programs like Utah State and New Mexico State around, the WAC would represent a substantial step up in quality for UNT's improving men's hoops team.

And still North Texas barely even considered the WAC's offer before publicly shooting them down. When the Sun Belt isn't just seen as the better option but the definitively better option, for a team that makes some geographical sense for the WAC, Benson has some major, major troubles. If they can't convince slow-moving Montana to make the leap to the FBS sooner than anticipated, the WAC may truly, finally be finished as a conference.


Posted on: October 29, 2010 2:16 pm
Edited on: November 13, 2010 6:09 pm

Big Ten struggling with division names

Posted by Tom Fornelli

When it comes to conference expansion, just about everything has been moving along quicker than anticipated in the Big Ten.  Jim Delany originally said that the process would take 12 to 18 months, yet here we are, less than 12 months later, and the conference has already added Nebraska and figured out the new divisions, and where the conference championship game is going to be played.

Yet, somehow, it seems that the part that really should be the easiest, naming the two new divisions, is going to miss a self-imposed deadline.  When the divisions were announced, Delany said that they would have names no later than December 1.  Well, it's nearly November now, and Delany is saying that he might be off on that by two months.

"I could be off by 60 days. I think it's going really slow," said Delany, speaking at Thursday's Big Ten Basketball Media Day. "Why? Because we're trying to get to the logo, and that's going slow. Then we're getting lots and lots of good selections that we're not coalescing very well. So, I think that there's absolutely -- other than missing my deadline by a day or 60 days -- there's really no compelling reason to rush until we get my comfort level."

Seriously?  It's going to take another three months to come up with a couple of divisional names?  I can come up with some in the next 30 seconds.

Great Lakes and Plains.

Bo and Woody.

Or, how about this one, and it might be pretty crazy, EAST AND WEST.

Wow, I just blew your mind, didn't I, Delany?  Yes, I know that the divisions aren't exactly aligned geographically, but what the hell does that matter?  This is a conference with 12 teams that insists on calling itself the Big Ten, after all.  They're just division names, they don't actually mean anything.

Posted on: October 28, 2010 1:33 pm

Nevada, Fresno St. told to grab a Snickers

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Why the delicious nougaty candy-related reference to lead off this post? Because Nevada and Fresno State are, as the tagline goes, not going anywhere for a while . Their move into the Mountain West and out of the ever-wobbly WAC has been delayed by a year, until 2012, as part of the resolution of a WAC lawsuit that asked the Wolf Pack and Bulldogs to either wait it out one extra season or fork over a cool $5 million each.

That kind of money doesn't grow on non-AQ trees, so both schools will pay a meager $900,000 (though they'll also forfeit their 2011-2012 league distribtuion check , making the true price tag a bit heftier) and spend another year lining up against the remnants of the WAC. That conference and commisioner Karl Benson came out the clear losers in this latest round of west coast conference expansion, but this is a major win that will give Benson a desperately-needed extra year in which to cobble together a strategy for keeping the 48-year-old conference afloat.

Everyone else involved in the MWC-WAC-BYU expansion brouhaha, though, comes out a loser in the short-term of today's decision. Let's count the ways:

Nevada and Fresno : Not that either program will likely be looking at a BCS berth in 2011, but nonetheless that goal will be all-but-impossible playing in a watered-down, Boise State -less WAC that will rank with the Sun Belt and MAC as the FBS's worst. Maybe more practically, a MWC schedule would be substantially more appealing to ticket-holders than going another round with San Jose State and Idaho . (The proud Pack men's hoops program would have been much more likely to earn an NCAA Tournament at-large berth out of the MWC, too.)

Boise State : Speaking of the Broncos, the 2011 MWC will likely offer a better strength-of-schedule quotient than the 2011 WAC, thanks to the likes of TCU , Air Force , and a rejuvenated San Digeo State . But without the Pack and the Bulldogs (or, of course, deserters BYU or Utah ), the sad-sack bottom half of the MWC still projects to be so weak that there won't be that much difference. If the Broncos do mount another undefeated charge at the national title game, tilts against known quantities like Nevada and Fresno would have come very much in handy.

The Mountain West: The MWC keeps trying to push the rock that is automatic qualification up the hill that is the BCS , and it keeps rolling downhill. A league with Boise added to the Utah-BYU-TCU axis was a lock, but the Utes and Cougars jumped ship. A league with Nevada and Fresno adding depth to the TCU-Boise axis also stands a good shot given the Big East 's current woes, but now that league won't start play until 2012, by which time it's possible a bigger fish picks off the geographically-distant Horned Frogs. (There's already rumors about TCU being offered a spot in the Big East.)

After today, the league seems more than ever to be merely running to stand still.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com