The Mountain West is exploring the possibility of expansion. Earlier this month, the league’s commissioner Craig Thompson confirmed as much.
Thompson confirmed that the Zags were among the teams contacted. From that report:
“Since August,” Thompson said, “I have spoken to six university presidents and/or athletic directors that have called inquiring about whether we are going to expand, and the Zags are one of them.
The Mountain West already has an unbalanced conference make-up. Hawaii is an associate member for football, while 11 other schools are full members.
Gonzaga is definitely a special case. The Bulldogs have one of the best basketball programs in the country, regardless of conference.
However, if the MWC is willing to make an exception for Gonzaga, it shows that Mountain West expansion could consider other basketball programs as well.
According to a new report, it could expand to up to 16 schools. Interestingly, this one comes right from the New Mexico State University activity report, via Chancellor Garrey Carruthers.
While at the WAC Basketball Tournament, I met with the Presidents and Athletic Directors of the WAC schools to discuss business as well as the challenges facing the Conference regarding membership. The WAC is initiating an aggressive membership campaign. Commissioner Jeff Hurd said “something was going to happen and happen soon” regarding conference alignments and realignments. One rumor was the Mountain West would become a 16-member conference with two-8 member divisions. NMSU could come into play as a new member, along with UTEP. Another uncertainty facing athletics is the ongoing investigation of NCAA basketball violations. There is also a special committee analyzing the “transfer” issue in collegiate basketball.
Between this report by the chancellor of a potential candidate in NMSU, now in the WAC, and the transparency from the MWC commissioner, this whole expansion is interestingly being played out in the public. That hasn’t always worked out; the Big 12 had a very public process which broke down and resulted in no additions.
Of course, since this isn’t a Power Five league it won’t have the same splash. The Mountain West is already pretty fun though, and this could really ramp things up, especially for an already solid basketball league.