Mountain West, C-USA Plan 2-Team Merger

Conference to spread across five time zones

By Rick Freeman
|  Friday, Oct 14, 2011  |  Updated 11:40 PM CDT
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Mountain West, C-USA Plan 2-Team Merger

Frank Heinz, NBCDFW.com

Game pixs of SMU's win over TCU on Saturday, October 1.

The Mountain West and Conference USA are planning to join forces to secure their future in the rapidly changing college football landscape.

The two leagues expect to merge their football operations into one mega-conference that will probably have between 20 and 24 teams in it when it finally gets going in 2013.

The name? They'll come up with one.

Will Boise State and Air Force, among others, stay? They hope.

"I'm just trying to create stability -- greater stability -- so we're not talking about membership issues," Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson said Friday night on a conference call.

Thompson and Conference USA commissioner Britton Banowsky said the new arrangement will provide the security that top programs need to keep them from jumping ship.

That's clearly the reason for the merger announced Friday, shortly after it came out that Boise State and Air Force -- two key Mountain West programs -- were being courted by the Big East.

TCU, currently a member of the Mountain West, is headed to the Big 12.

Down to six teams after Syracuse and Pittsburgh announced a pending departure to the ACC, the Big East -- the league generally viewed as the weakest of the automatic qualifiers for the Bowl Championship Series -- looks set to poach some of the top mid-majors.

A Big East official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the conference had not authorized anyone to speak publicly about its plans, told The Associated Press that the conference plans to invite Boise State, Air Force and Navy as football-only members, and Central Florida to compete in all sports.

"It's a viable option and it creates stability and that's what they're looking for," Thompson said. "I can't answer what Air Force will do or won't do, but we're going to put a very attractive opportunity on the table for the United States Air Force Academy."

Both Thompson and Banowsky said it's too soon to discuss how the sprawling league -- which could stretch from West Virginia and Florida to Hawaii and Idaho -- would handle scheduling.

The superconference would be one of the largest among Division I NCAA football. It would be made up of C-USA teams East Carolina, Houston, Marshall, Memphis, Rice, SMU, Southern Miss, Tulane, Tulsa, UAB, UCF and UTEP, as well as Mountain West teams Colorado State, San Diego State, Boise State, Wyoming, UNLV, New Mexico and Air Force.

But Thompson and Banowsky emphasized, however, that they would honor their current TV contracts.

"I think definitely the intention is increased television revenue for all members," Thompson said. "We like the new approach because it's different. It's proactive."

AP college football writer Ralph D. Russo contributed.

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