Oct. 14, 2011
IRVING, Texas/COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - The Mountain West Conference and Conference USA have unanimously come to an agreement in principle to consolidate their member football programs into one large association.
Complete Release in PDF Format
Listen to the Commissioners' Teleconference
Commissioners of the two leagues formulated this creative and innovative plan with the support of the presidents, chancellors and athletics directors. The 12 members of Conference USA and 10 football-playing members of the Mountain West will join forces for this strategic landmark in college football.
"The role of a conference is to provide its members with the best possible environment in which to conduct their intercollegiate athletics programs," said Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson. "Rather than await changes in membership due to realignment, it became clear the best way to serve our institutions was to pursue an original concept. The Mountain West and C-USA share a number of similarities, and the creative merger of our football assets firmly positions our respective members for the future."
"The potential of this association is very exciting," Conference USA Commissioner Britton Banowsky said. "By taking an innovative approach, we feel we can offer tremendous opportunities for exposure and stability without breaking up the regional rivalries that truly make up the college football tradition."
UNLV President and Mountain West Board of Directors Chair Neal Smatresk said, "In an era of uncertainty in intercollegiate athletics, this collaborative partnership with C-USA lends stability and credibility to our collective football enterprise. We are excited about the prospect of having teams in five time zones and the many possibilities created by this extremely bold and proactive step."
Conference USA Board of Directors Chair and Tulane president Scott Cowen said, "We are very pleased to be moving forward with the Mountain West Conference on this high potential, unique partnership. Together, we will better position our conferences and member universities for the future with its appeal and its reach across the United States."
The current 22 members are located in 16 different states, offering a prospective 16-hour window for competition. Conference USA has existing television partnerships with Fox Sports and CBS Sports, as well as ESPN for its championship game. The Mountain West has partnerships with CBS Sports and Comcast/NBC Universal.
The two conferences will merge into a separate football-only entity without affecting their status within the NCAA structure.
What They Are Saying...
UTEP President Dr. Diana Natalicio
"This creative partnership between C-USA and Mountain West will position both conferences to achieve stability, leverage our exposure and renew old rivalries, and enable UTEP to continue to compete in Texas. We strongly support this exciting development."
East Carolina Athletics Director Terry Holland
"Cooperative actions like this can help restore a proper focus on student-athlete welfare and will reward fans by creating regional rivalries."
Marshall Director of Athletics Mike Hamrick
"This has the potential to be an exciting development for Marshall Athletics and I am intrigued by it. This is an excellent alliance with a tremendous upside for all parties involved."
Memphis Athletics Director R.C. Johnson
"I think this is a terrific move for Conference USA and for the University of Memphis. This will align us with some strong programs in the Mountain West and will give us (C-USA and Mountain West) strength in numbers. I think this is a positive move for both conferences and we anticipate positive results from this association."
Rice Director of Athletics Rick Greenspan
"In the current climate of sudden change as it relates to conference affiliation, this proposal represents an effort to strengthen the overall position two existing conferences and offer each of our member institutions and their supporters a greater sense of stability as we look to the future. It has been conducted with an air of great civility and respect and represents a well thought-out approach to the challenges of recent times.
"The combined schools in this consolidation span five time zones and represent 20% of the current participants in the Bowl Championship Subdivision. Speaking as a combined voice gives us a greater opportunity to make our case, and competing together creates a much larger audience for our games. Both conferences have tremendous relationships with their broadcast partners, and the combination of these territories only enhances those relationships as we move forward.
"We have been a supporter of this consolidation from the start and firmly believe that this bold and proactive step is one that will create greater opportunities for Rice football in the future. This consolidation allows Rice to continue to build on the competitive relationships we have forged in Conference USA over the last seven years, while doing so as part of a league that will play a significantly greater role in an enhanced postseason lineup.
"It also achieves the desired goals for football without negatively impacting the rest of our student-athletes, who successfully balance the demands of their academic and athletic pursuits. They will not be asked to add additional travel requirements to the detriment of their studies. The mission of Rice remains to place our student-athletes in the best position to succeed in the classroom and in competition. "
Southern Miss Athletics Director Richard Giannini
"This is an exciting day for C-USA and the Mountain West. The association between the two leagues is unique, bold and a creative step to assure the future stability, exposure, and enhanced revenue for our conferences. It will create endless new opportunities for the two groups and stretch the interest in our programs across five time zones. It is a win-win for both leagues and allows our student-athletes the opportunity to be able to compete on the highest level of college football."
Tulane Director of Athletics Rick Dickson
"We are very pleased with this bold, innovative and proactive development announced today. In this period of national chaos, to be able to strengthen the brand, revenues and enhance direct access to post-season championship formats for our flagship programs is essential, and I believe today's announcement does this. It's an exciting day."
Tulane Head Football Coach Bob Toledo
"I had the opportunity to coach in the Mountain West Conference at New Mexico and there are some outstanding teams in that league. This is my fifth year at Tulane, a Conference USA school, and there are a lot of great football teams in our conference. I think this is an exciting time for both leagues to get together and hopefully there will be an opportunity for the champion to play in a BCS game."
UTEP Director of Athletics Bob Stull
"This concept provides a tremendous opportunity to maximize our exposure, revenue and postseason opportunities, while stabilizing both conferences through a footprint that stretches from Hawaii to Florida. The idea was first presented last year, and we would like to thank Commissioner Banowsky and Commissioner Thompson for bringing it to fruition in a relatively short period of time. We're excited about maintaining our current rivalries and perhaps rekindling some old ones."
UTEP Head Football Coach Mike Price
"We're ecstatic about the move. I'm all for increasing revenue and exposure, and I know our fans will love playing schools from our past. It should be a lot of fun."