College Football’s Realignment: Could the Mountain West Go To 16 Teams?

College Football’s Realignment: Could the Mountain West Go To 16 Teams?

Mountain West Football

College Football’s Realignment: Could the Mountain West Go To 16 Teams?

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College Football’s Realignment: Could the Mountain West Go To 16 Teams?


Adding Pac-12 Teams Could Add Competition, and Expanded Footprint and New Opportunities for Growth 


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Adding some Mountain West teams?

As news of conference realignments affect schools across the country, many are already trying to gauge the impact on their individual futures, and those of their respective conferences, whichever teams may come or go. The Pac-12 and Big 12 have already discussed the possibilities of joining together, and the Pac-12 and ACC have discussed a “loose partnership” as a way to raise their stature in the college sports world. Group of 5 conferences appears to be awaiting the decisions of their Power 5 colleagues, perhaps looking for the opportunity to realign themselves or stand pat into the years ahead. 

Within the Pac-12 specifically, USC and UCLA have departed for the Big Ten, and there is more than speculation that the Big 12 will look to invite Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado Utah, Oregon, and Washington. This leaves four teams behind in what was the Pac-12: Stanford, California, Oregon State, and Washington State. What shall become of these schools? 

One possibility for these universities would be to join the Mountain West . As a 16-team Group of 5 conference, there are several ways this could benefit all involved and be more than just a marriage of convenience. 

Creating A Super Group Of Five Football League

A new competitive balance could raise the profile for all involved. Before anyone assumes these Pac-12 schools would simply dominate their Mountain West foes, let’s look at the games in 2021. In non-conference, regular season matchups, the Mountain West went 5-5 against the Pac-12, including wins over Utah (by San Diego State) and UCLA (by Fresno State). Conference games at the top of this new Mountain West would be played among a number of evenly matched schools, creating the potential for exciting games attracting national attention. 

An expansion of non-conference foes and neutral site games. As these schools join the Mountain West, one would hope they bring certain rivalries as well. If Stanford continues to play Notre Dame, why not an opportunity for Boise State or San Diego State to eventually face the Irish? Neutral Site games (or a Conference Championship game) potentially played in Seattle or Santa Clara would also raise the profile of a conference looking to grow beyond any perception of a “small-market” conference. 

As the conference grows, so might other opportunities. As a newly reconstituted Mountain West, there may be the chance to leverage its teams and geographical footprint into other markets. As a lower-profile conference, a deal with one of the streaming services eager to expand its sports offerings could prove relatively low-risk but still entertaining with a conference like the Mountain West. Who wouldn’t at least be curious to see a “Hard Knocks” show with the UNLV Rebels, set against the backdrop of Las Vegas? Conference games could be played at a

time to maximize its audience, with more flexibility and without the competition of other television commitments the Power 5 schools might command. 

If the Pac-12 schools disband and go their separate ways as has been discussed, the similarities among schools like Stanford, Cal, Oregon State and Washington State with the Mountain West Conference has the potential to flourish for all the right reasons. It will be interesting to see how the continued negotiations among the Power 5 conferences evolve and the impact they have on conferences like the Mountain West for years to come.


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