College Football: 4 Winners and 4 Losers of Mountain West-Conference USA Merger
The Mountain West and Conference USA have announced that they plan on merging. This will create a 22-team conference. There has been no word yet on whether or not the new conference will be an automatic BCS qualifier, but it's a possibility.
The non-traditional conference obviously won't have any sort of geographic connection, and this might lead the way for the formation of other similar super-conferences. The landscape of college sports has been changing, and it seems like even more change is on the horizon.
Here are four winners and four losers of this new merger.
Loser: Big East
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The Big East was poised to invite Boise State, Central Florida, Air Force and Navy to join the depleted conference. It would have been geographically awkward, but that doesn't seem to be a major concern anymore.
All 22 schools involved in this merger agreed upon the move, so it seems like they don't plan on moving to another conference anytime soon. And not to mention, TCU was going to join the Big East, until they agreed to join the Big 12.
This has been a terrible time for the the Big East. First, Pittsburgh and Syracuse bolted for the ACC. There have been more rumors about Rutgers and UConn possibly leaving for the ACC as well. The future just does not look good for the Big East, and this merger makes it look even drearier.
Loser: Big 12
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The future of the Big 12 is somewhat in question but not to the extent of the Big East. The recent announcement of the Pac-12 staying put at 12 teams has been reassuring to Big 12 fans, and TCU plans on joining the conference.
However, the conference is in more trouble than it seems. Missouri joining the SEC is a real possibility, and I'm not sold on the Pac-12 not expanding. Things change all the time. The whole Longhorn Network fiasco isn't working out as planned, and this may affect the future of Texas in the Big 12.
It was never really brought up, but I thought Boise State would be a perfect fit for the Big 12. They seem content with their new conference.
The Big 12 probably would have looked to other Mountain West members, in the event of teams leaving for the Pac-12 or SEC. Air Force, San Diego State, Nevada and possibly Houston from Conference USA would have been targets.
All these teams are probably not interested in another move.
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The WAC has quietly become the FBS conference in the worst shape. When Fresno State, Hawaii and Nevada leave after this year, the WAC will only consist of five teams. Don't know how that would work.
They presumably would have looked to the weaker Mountain West teams, selling the idea of more competition and a better shot at winning. Well, that doesn't seem to be an option anymore.
Another merger will probably end up happening between the remaining WAC teams and the Sun Belt. These are the two weakest conferences in FBS, but they will probably come together similarly to the way the Mountain West and Conference USA did.
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The BCS now has another issue to worry about. Does this new conference deserve an automatic BCS bid?
Boise State has always had some beef with the BCS, so I think there might be some pressure to make this conference an automatic qualifier. When you look at this conference from top to bottom, however, it really isn't too deep.
Nevada and Air Force are pretty good from the Mountain West. Houston and Central Florida aren't bad either, but do these teams really compare to those in the Pac-12 or Big 10? But on the other hand, are they better than the teams from the even weaker Big East?
This puts the BCS in a tough spot, and it will be interesting to see how that all plays out.
Winner: Boise State
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I mentioned this before, but I'm really surprised that the Big 12 didn't reach out to Boise State. They deserve to be in a BCS conference, and I think there will be considerable pressure on the BCS to make this new conference an automatic qualifier. Whether it's fair or not is up for you to decide.
With that being said, I think this conference will actually become a BCS conference. It sets up really well for Boise State to make yearly trips to BCS games.
Who is going to challenge them? Nevada? Houston? San Diego State? Now imagine if they went to the Big 12. They would have to deal with Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, etc.
The chances of them winning the Big 12 would be pretty low, whereas the chances of them winning the "Mountain USA" are far greater.
Winner: Army and Navy
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The Big East has long been criticized for being an undeserving BCS conference. That criticism will intensify, as they will not add Air Force, Boise State or Central Florida.
Navy will surely still be invited, and I think the Big East will have no choice but to add Army as well. So, the future Big East could consist of West Virginia, Louisville, South Florida, Cincinnati, Connecticut, Rutgers, Army and Navy.
How about we just skip the season and have West Virginia and South Florida play for the conference title. That would save us all a lot of time.
As weak as the Big East is, it is still a BCS conference. It would be a huge win for Army and Navy if they can join an automatic qualifier.
Winner: UAB, Memphis, Rice, UTEP, Tulane, Tulsa
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Does anyone care about any of these teams?
The "Mountain USA" could very well be an automatic qualifier, and these lowly teams will be a part of it. Huge win for their football programs.
Not only does it help on the field, but it can help with the growth and development of the schools. This conference will essentially be a coast-to-coast conference, providing exposure opportunities for these schools.
Tulane and Rice are really good academic schools, and this conference gives them a ton of national publicity. It will probably make them more recognizable across the country.
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BYU is currently an independent, but it isn't clear if that's how the school wants to stay.
I mentioned before that the Big 12 will probably look to add a few teams, and BYU would be a great fit. They would bring tradition and a team with fans across the country to the conference.
In retrospect, BYU's decision to be independent this season was a very wise one. All the talk of conference realignment was on the horizon, and the Cougars decided they wouldn't be a part of it. If they had stayed in the Mountain West, they probably would have been locked in to this new mega-conference.
Now, it seems like them joining the Big 12 is inevitable—a huge step forward for their athletic program.
Bonus Winner: The Argument for a Playoff
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The BCS is a mess, and all this conference realignment only makes it messier.
The conferences are keeping the BCS alive. Conference tie-ins are a huge part of the BCS games. This conference merger may have paved the way for future mergers like this one.
I mentioned the possibility of a WAC-Sun Belt merger, but who's to say there won't be a Big East-ACC merger or a Big 12-Pac-12 merger. Many believe that as far as the BCS goes, we're headed to four super-conferences of 16 teams each.
Not only the BCS, but all bowl games have conference tie-ins. What happens to these games if two conferences just go away?
The bottom line is that all these changes are creating a pretty ugly situation for the BCS. Like many, I think it's time for a playoff. Some kind of system can be worked out, and it will benefit everyone. Let's let the national champion be determined on the field.