Mountain West To Expand To 20 Conference Games Starting 2022-2023
The expanded twenty game conference schedule will take place in two years.
Athletic Directors around the conference vote in favor of expanded conference schedule with a plan to implement the change in two years.
A topic that has always brought much debate in the Mountain West conference over the past decade is under a microscope again and this time it looks like change is on the horizon, whether some programs like it or not. Athletic Directors from all eleven schools voted in favor of a proposed change to the number of conference games scheduled on Monday, with the next step being another vote by the conference Board of Directors come June.
The change would expand the conference schedule from eighteen games currently to twenty come the 2022-2023 season, which is when the current Mountain West-Atlantic 10 Challenge deal is set to expire. The dual conference challenge would have created further scheduling complications that would have resulted in a twenty-one game conference schedule if implemented next season, according to San Diego State Athletic Director John David Wicker who spoke to Mark Zeigler of the San Diego Union-Tribune regarding Monday’s talks. The proposed 20-game version would create a true round-robin schedule compared to the current model where every team skips one home and one away opponent.
The Mountain West’s history with conference scheduling will depict a very back and forth notion on the number of conference games played since inception. The conference played a 14-game schedule from 1999-2005 with eight members (then comes TCU), then a 16-game schedule until BYU and Utah left in 2011 (back down to eight members with the addition of Boise State). Followed by a 14-game schedule in TCU’s last season in Mountain West before making a move to the Big 12 (enter Fresno State and Nevada), which was then switched to an 18-game schedule ahead of the 2013-2014 season (welcome San Jose State) and hasn’t been touched since, well until now.
This comes during a tough time for many mid-major conferences nationwide as their high major neighbors have opted to expand their own schedules to twenty games to increase the number of big ticket conference matchups they can present while leaving out some of those unnecessary buy games that rarely pad the tournament resume. Where does this leave everyone else you might ask? Exactly where the Mountain West is, attempting to rectify the problem with their own twenty game schedule. Schools like Utah State and Fresno State were among the programs sill looking for non-conference match ups just weeks before their season openers and were likely a part of the lot in favor of the change, unable to secure annual home-and-home series with high major programs and left at the mercy of neutral court match ups. Though one can argue Utah State came out of those in a better position than expected.
The solution to this yearly scheduling headache was proposed Monday and passed with a majority vote of 7-4 with a second round of voting this time from the Presidents of all member schools taking place early next month. But for some, this isn’t the way they would have wanted things to play out and it appears they couldn’t put the idea on hold any longer. It’s rumored that the four schools against the expanded conference schedule were UNLV, Nevada, San Diego State, and Air Force, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune’s report.
The Aztecs have been long opponents to an expanded conference schedule, arguing the lack of flexibility in creating a competitive non-conference schedule to help boost NCAA tournament resumes with expanded conference obligations in mind. Other schools in the Mountain West have often struggled to fill their non-conference slate year in and year out, looking towards the NCAA’s Division II or NAIA ranks to fill in the gaps. Not to mention spending more and more of their non-conference schedule away from their home arenas and away from fans, which bring a home court advantage in addition to game day income to a shrinking amount of home games played.
It’s definitely a tough discussion for the conference as a whole, especially given the Mountain West’s desire to return to multi-bid status. But as some teams are scheduling with an appearance in the big dance in mind, others are just looking to create a schedule that benefits them both competitively and logistically, while hoping not to break the bank on a buy game against a bottom tier Summit League opponent. Though for now, nothing is set in stone as that aforementioned vote will take place in the coming weeks and will surely ruffle some feathers among Mountain West teams given the same results.