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Asked if expanding to more than 12 members is on the table, Thompson said it is, though he deferred that decision-making to others.
“What can we do to make this league better?” Thompson said. “The next step is for us to consider our future. Is more members better? Do we stay at 12? I don’t have an answer to either of those questions. The first catalyst was staying together. Now we’ll sit down, the athletic director group, debate options present, potentially, something to the board, and the board will determine.”
Football options, non-football options and possible scheduling adjustments
Options to pursue could include non-football members like Gonzaga and Wichita State. Gonzaga, which nearly completed an undefeated national championship season earlier this year in men’s basketball, is set to lose its biggest West Coast Conference rival BYU to the Big 12, while Wichita State joined the AAC and has since seen major basketball programs UConn, Houston and Cincinnati depart the league.
Football options could include expanding into Texas for Conference USA teams like North Texas, UTSA or Rice, giving the league a new source for football talent and reaching more major markets and the Central time zone. While some observers have brought up SMU, it’s believed the Mustangs are happy in the AAC. If football success is key, FCS powerhouse North Dakota State could be a potential option for the Mountain West.
Thompson said all options could be on the table. “It gets back to somewhat geography and travel,” he said. Thompson also said other changes have been discussed within the Mountain West internally for months, from abolishing football divisions to adding nine conference games.
“The worst thing that could happen to the Mountain West is a 7-5 division champ upsetting an 11-1 team from the other division,” he said. “We’re looking at that. We’re looking at maybe going to nine conference games. If we’re going to potentially lose non-conference opportunities to the alliance or the Big 12 or the SEC, how do you replace those games? Are we better off playing conference games and you don’t pay a guarantee and your fans might have more interest in a conference game? Those are the types of things we’re looking at.”