Over-Under on Craig Thompson Preserving The Mountain West
Won a conference trophy? Craig Thompson’s got you covered. Can he keep the current Mountain West teams together? Time will tell.
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The Mountain West has survived hard times but Thompson has let good programs and opportunities slip away.
Colorado Springs, CO — The Mountain West Conference is home to eleven complete university programs- and a twelfth for football only.
The powerhouse G-5 conference has had its latest lineup including the San Diego State Aztecs, Fresno State Bulldogs, San Jose State Spartans, Boise State Broncos, Utah State Aggies, Air Force Falcons, Wyoming Cowboys, Colorado State Rams , Nevada Wolf Pack, UNLV Runnin’ Rebels, New Mexico Lobos, Hawaii Rainbow Warriors (football only)- for approximately one decade.
Founding programs that left years ago include Utah and BYU. TCU joined later around 2005 but subsequently left.
The ones who could have been but never were include Wichita State, Gonzaga and Grand Canyon.
Let’s look at three possible scenarios for the future Mountain West.
One Or More Programs Exit The Mountain West
It’s quite possible one or more teams may leave the conference. The teams many believe could go include Colorado State and Air Force. The Falcons may have great aspirations, but they have rarely reached “the top of the Mountain.” The Rams have everything an exceptional program would want (except sports success). In short, neither program has by-and-large competed inside of the Mountain West at a consistently high level.
If either or both teams leave, there is no shortage of emerging teams who would gladly fill openings in the Mountain West. The most probable candidates include New Mexico State Los Aggies, UTEP Miners, and possibly the North Dakota State Bisons.
These are the low hanging fruit and if nobody has noticed, NMSU and UTEP have had active pre-season involvement with the Mountain West conference. NDSU, UTSA and Rice have also been mentioned recently.
No Programs Exit / One Or More Join The Conference
In this scenario, the Mountain West potentially gains strength by adding anywhere from one to three additional quality programs, unless of course weak programs are instead selected. If the conference selected quality programs that could contribute to “good wins” then this could be a new opportunity. On the other hand, if weak programs needing ten years to get their act together (like San Jose State) join, this could be destructive to the conference. Several high quality basketball-only programs could augment the Mountain West, like Saint Mary’s or Gonzaga.
No Programs Exit Nor Join The Mountain West
Sadly, this underwhelming outcome could be the most probable scenario, and it would be on par with what Thompson has done to inject excitement into this conference for years, which is to say “not much at all.” Doing nothing is not a winning strategy, but it leaves the conference intact. More trophies handed out, and the usual suspects playing one another, the most talented coaches being poached by the Pac-12 and other Power-Five conferences. Wash, rinse, repeat.
This would not surprise anybody.
Mountain West Conference loses ONE program / adds ONE program.