Separate blog notwithstanding, we consider our brethren (and sistren) at MWCC to be underdogs right along with us, and we totally understand the boat they're in. This "will they? won't they?" of the Big 12 is frustrating, and at a certain point you've already lined up your next move, made a strong connection, started to realize what life can be like in this new future... and what does the Big 12 do?
For now, nothing. Early reports had them making a decision by the end of August, and now we hear something about "mid-October meetings," but at this point they're just playing with our emotions. We here at UDD are quite attached to our teams, and if any of our baby birds are moving out, we want to know about it.
The Pac-12 and the AAC seem content to stick with 12 for now, and for a time, we thought the Mountain West did, too. If they make a move in advance (or instead of) the Big 12, the first thing we knew we had to do was was contact Jeremy Mauss, Editor of SBN’s MountainWestConnection.
UDD: Other than Houston, what AAC / C-USA / SBC teams are most appealing to you, in terms of quality of play, or media market?
JM: From a football perspective Tulsa has always been a team that has an exciting brand of play and has potential for big things with the Philip Montgomery entering his second year as head coach. He did great things at Baylor and has took the offense north to the Golden Hurricane. SMU and UTSA have solid play and decent size markets for an addition to the Mountain West, but market size means little if one does not have their own TV network. Getting into Texas would bring some eyeballs to the ESPN/CBSSN/Streaming games but also recruiting to get more talent and another time zone is helpful for exposure.
To go even more East there is Louisiana Tech, who like Tulsa has had some good success and maybe pair them with Arkansas State who has won five straight Sun Belt titles and with four coaches.
It’s important to note that Louisiana Tech was not invited to join the Mountain West when the old WAC broke up, opting instead to finally join the more geographically-appropriate Conference USA after several years of willingly paying for flights to Hawaii. But conferences will always surprise us; the AAC inviting Tulane and Tulsa seemed unusual at the time, due to lack of any sustained success in revenue-generating sports, but they now look more appealing based solely on the company they keep, or perhaps the money they are now making.
Which brings us to Texas. Home of three Top Ten media markets, Texas is conveniently located right between AAC and MWC territory, with two current AAC teams and the two nearest MW teams a half-days flight away in Albuquerque, NM and Fort Collins, CO.
UDD: Why would any school move from the AAC to the MW? Isn’t that just a lateral move?
JM: As the leagues currently stand there is no real benefit for either team to go to the other league, because it is a lateral move. However, if the Big 12 takes two American teams from either Cincinnati, Houston or UConn then the Mountain West becomes the better league. There are not enough quality teams from the Sun Belt, C-USA or even the independents (Army or UMass) to make up that gap. That is when the Mountain West has a chance to grab a pair of schools from the American and maybe even their long-lost brother in UTEP. If just one AAC team goes with, say, BYU, then it’s a toss up but the Mountain West might have a slight edge if it's Cincinnati or Houston. The biggest fish would be for the Mountain West to try to scoop up Houston if they are left behind and then either a combo of Tulsa, North Texas, UTSA or UTEP.
With Houston’s current success, the AAC seems like the stronger of the two leagues, but if Houston leaves for greener (Power Five) pastures, well… UDD would like to think that the likes of WKU or Southern Miss or Appalachian State would be enough to put the AAC right back in contention, but these things take time.
UDD: As the tenured MWC guy, what size conference would be ideal?
JM: The Mountain West sitting at 12 football teams is actually the perfect fit for me. The league has a nice schedule set up by rotating teams form opposite divisions on a rotating basis so each division gets to see the other side more often than not. Adding teams should be done to increase revenue with more inventory but also good teams. There is a reason the league turned down Idaho and New Mexico State's overtures to join the Mountain West when they got the boot from the Sun Belt.
I think the Mountain West should expand if they can cannibalize the American in a similar fashion when they cut the knees off the WAC by inviting Utah State, Fresno State, San Jose State, Nevada and Hawaii around the time that they lost BYU, Utah and TCU. Also, the right teams need to be added and as stated, Houston is the big fish to grab. Adding UTEP and Rice does nothing for me and really only getting Houston is the must add to expand to 14 and then someone else. I am a big fan of Tulsa so maybe them and North Texas to have some sense of geography, but if Houston cannot be added to get to 14 then I'd be hard pressed to find two teams to make this league better.
Fans of the Mountain West, as you can imagine, have mixed feelings on any current UDD teams to join. We look forward to reading your own thoughts in the comments!