Mountain West Expansion Is Not Completely Off The Table
Could there be a 12th basketball playing member?
Is the Mountain West set on its league lineup?
Expansion is a topic that never goes away and its ugly head popped up again during Mountain West media days. Commissioner Craig Thompson is never going to completely rule out adding teams to the league.
Thompson discussed how Gonzaga was nearly added this offseason. “The pursuit of Gonzaga probably got a little more public than I would have cared to have it taken,” he said.
“I liken where we are in 2018 to where we were in 2003-04ish. When we started the league in 1999, we knew it would take four or five years to mature and get our programs — football particularly — where we could compete for a BCS berth,” Thompson added. “And we did that. Utah played Pitt in the Fiesta Bowl first.
“I think that we’re at the point right now that we can probably pause, catch our breath, because we’re on a steady course of where we want to be. Again, in football now, win the Mountain West championship and you’ll be in heavy consideration for a New Year’s Eve berth. …I think the league now, with its current membership, is in a solid position.”
OK, before we go any further on the topic we need to have a chat. Thompson was the reason the Gonzaga situation got out publicly. He spoke to the San Diego Union-Tribune on the record a few times on this situation and basically called it dead before the meeting between the Bulldogs, Mountain West and Thompson occurred.
So, to say it got ahead of itself is 100 percent on Thompson for being so public on trying to add Gonzaga. This is twice he screwed things up by first not adding Wichita State two years ago and then not landing Gonzaga.
Adding both of those teams would have made the Mountain West a basketball league to be reckoned with an be at worst on par with the Big East, A-10, AAC and even in the neighborhood, if not above, some of the Power Five leagues. That 13-team league possibly could have gone to 14 by adding a solid BYU or Grand Canyon team.
For the first time, Thompson did say that the 12th spot in basketball is still something the league is looking at and did not rule out adding a full-fledged member which would give 13 football teams.
An odd number of football teams has been done before with the MAC when UMass was part of the league for a few years. It can be done but it does make scheduling a little bit of a challenge.
“We have 11 basketball schools; there is an opening for basketball. We have 12 football-playing members,” Thompson said. “So, a 13th football-playing member, while workable, is probably not the most desirable.”
This could mean that New Mexico State would be an option to get the basketball membership side to 12 and have these Aggies be that 13th team for football.
Either that was a subtle hint to the Aggies or it is Thompson being more open-minded in who to look for if the Mountain West decides to add teams. However, actions speak louder than words when it comes to Thompson in adding teams since he has rarely been proactive, and the one time he did it was a great move with TCU years ago. Besides that, he sits back and is reactionary.
“We talk about it at some of our meetings,” he said of expansion. “It hasn’t been as hot and heavy, with the exception of Gonzaga this winter, talking about any membership changes. … I like kind of where the league is now.”
Time will tell when or if the Mountain West makes a move and there very likely will be one in a about five years when TV deals start to expire for the Power Five leagues.
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