Over the weekend the Mountain West officially gained three new schools. It was no secret that Hawaii, Fresno State, and Nevada were joining the conference so the official announcement isn’t exactly groundbreaking. However, the Mountain West will remain not just relevant, but the best mid-major conference in college football.
What does the move mean for a conference that already lost TCU and is set to lose Boise State in 2013? It means the ship is still afloat, albeit not without a few leaks. BSU’s stay in the conference is just for a cup of coffee. Last season was the Broncos first in the Mountain West, and this will be their last, before the move to the Big East.
Both TCU and BSU have established themselves among the best that the mid-majors have to offer, however, the Mountain West cupboard isn’t empty. There remains potential in not just what is left but by what is being gained. TCU and BSU are essentially losing their “mid-major” street cred moving up to major conference ranks in the Big-12 and Big East respectively. Let there be no doubt the best mid-major football will be played in the Mountain West.
Fresno State was darling of the mid-major universe in 2001 shocking Colorado, Oregon State, and Wisconsin all in a row to begin the season. The Bulldogs reached as high as eight in the AP poll before losing to, ironically, then unknown BSU. Coach Pat Hill built a reputation on upsetting big name programs or at least giving them a run for their money (see USC vs. FSU circa 2005). First year head coach Tim DeRuyter is a solid hire and should keep the Bulldogs defense among the best in the Mountain West.
Hawaii can look back fondly on the glory days of the mid-2000’s with June Jones coaching and Colt Brennan setting NCAA records from the quarterback position. The duo garnered a Sugar Bowl appearance forgettable as it was. Norm Chow has the pedigree to give the fans in Manoa the warm and fuzzies again, but must deal with some off-the-field problems aside from a tough schedule. Otherwise, the Warriors are a solid addition.
Chris Ault has built a winning program in Reno pioneering a now often imitated pistol offense. The last losing season for Nevada was in 2004. Since then, the Wolf Pack have reached a bowl game in every year since, including a 13 win 2010 finishing 11th in the AP poll. Not too shabby.
In a statement Mountain West commissioner Fred Thompson gave a warm welcome to the three universities,
The addition of these fine institutions helps position the Conference for a bright future, and we look forward to the contributions that Bulldog, Warrior and Wolf Pack student-athletes, coaches, fans and administrators will make to the success of the Mountain West.”
The welcome mat has been laid down for the three Mountain West newbies. The college conference carousel continues to rotate and shows no signs of stopping. The future of the Mountain West is in no way clear, but the present will be fun to watch.