The Mountain West Conference
(formally abbreviated MW
since July 2011; informally MWC
), popularly known as the Mountain West
, is the youngest of the college athletic conferences affiliated with the NCAA’s Division I FBS (formerly I-A). The MW officially began operations in July 1999. Geographically, the MW covers a broad expanse of the western United States, with member institutions located in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. The conference introduced a new logo for the 2011 season to reflect changes to the growing conference. Craig Thompson has served as Commissioner of the MW since its founding in 1999.
Charter members included Air Force, BYU, Colorado State, New Mexico, San Diego State, UNLV, Utah, and Wyoming. Before forming the Mountain West Conference, seven of the eight charter members had been longtime members of the Western Athletic Conference; half were WAC charter members at its formation in 1962 - UNLV had only joined the WAC in 1996. Overall, all schools that are in the MW now, were MW members in the past, or will be MW members in the future spent at least three years in the WAC before joining the MW (in the case of Texas Christian University, they did not move from the WAC straight to the MW, spending four years in Conference USA prior to its MW tenure).
The 2013-14 academic year will mark the 15th anniversary season of the MW.
The WAC expanded from 10 to 16 universities in 1996, absorbing three teams from the defunct Southwest Conference (SWC) (Rice, SMU, and TCU), adding two from the Big West (San Jose State and UNLV), and also bringing in Tulsa, a football Independent and otherwise a member of the Missouri Valley Conference. However, the expanded WAC was soon wracked by tension between the established and new members. The final straw came in spring 1998, when BYU and Utah proposed a permanent split into two eight-team divisions, which would have forced some schools into an unnatural alignment because of the geographic distribution of the conference. Air Force was the most strident opponent of this proposal, threatening to go independent. Soon after the BYU–Utah proposal, the presidents of Air Force, BYU, Colorado State, Utah, and Wyoming met at Denver International Airport to discuss their future, and agreed to break away from the WAC to form a new conference. They invited old-line WAC members New Mexico and San Diego State, plus 1996 newcomer UNLV, to join them in what became the Mountain West Conference. The next move for the MW came in 2005, when the conference added TCU, who had spent the previous four seasons in Conference USA.
On June 11, 2010, Boise State University agreed to join the conference as its tenth member. On June 17, 2010, Utah announced it would be leaving the Mountain West to join what would become the Pacific-12 Conference. On August 18, 2010, amidst rumors that Brigham Young was considering leaving the Mountain West to go independent in football and rejoin the Western Athletic Conference in all other sports, the Mountain West Conference officially extended invitations to California State University, Fresno and the University of Nevada, Reno. Fresno State and Nevada accepted and would become the tenth and eleventh members of the league. BYU announced on August 31, 2010 that it would leave the Mountain West Conference and go Independent in football and become a member of the West Coast Conference (WCC) in other sports starting in 2011. On November 29, 2010, Texas Christian University announced all athletic teams would move to the Big East Conference effective in 2012. (Less than a year later, on October 10, 2011, TCU announced it would not join the Big East but would join the Big 12, home to fellow former SWC members Baylor, Texas, Texas Tech and formerly Texas A&M, in 2012 instead.) On December 10, 2010, the i at MānoaUniversity of Hawai accepted a bid to become the 10th member of the conference for football only. These changes would leave the Mountain West Conference with 10 teams for the 2012 football season.
The MW champion has qualified for a BCS bowl four times since the BCS formula was tweaked to allow non-BCS conferences to play in BCS bowls if ranked in the top 12; however, two of the three schools that qualified are no longer with the conference.
On October 14, 2011, the Mountain West and Conference USA announced a plan for a football only alliance. Both conferences currently have media deals with CBS Sports Network.
On February 13, 2012, the Mountain West & Conference USA (C-USA) announced that both conferences would be dissolving after the 2012-2013 season to reform into one conference with at least 15 members for all sports, and a 16th team, i at MānoaUniversity of Hawai as a football-only member. However, when the two conferences discussed their plans with the NCAA, they were told that due to NCAA rules, they would forfeit substantial revenues. Specifically, the new conference would receive only one automatic bid to NCAA championships; at least one of the former conferences would lose future revenue distributions from the NCAA men's basketball tournament; and at least one former conference would not be able to collect exit fees from any members that departed to join the new conference. As a result, the Mountain West and C-USA apparently backed away from a full merger. In late March of that year, the commissioners of both conferences stated that all 16 schools had entered into binding agreements to form a new "association", although the Mountain West and C-USA will now apparently remain separate legal entities.
On May 2, 2012, San Jose State and Utah State agreed to join the conference for the 2013-14 academic year. On December 31 of that year, Boise State announced that it had backed out of its previously announced move to the Big East for football and the Big West for other sports, and would remain in the MW.
On January 2, 2013, it was reported that in the deal between Boise State and the Mountain West, SDSU would be the first team the MW could invite to expand the conference. On January 16, 2013 it was reported that SDSU had accepted the offer to remain/return to the Mountain West Conference in all sports. Keeping SDSU in the conference gives the Mountain West 12 football members, allowing for a Championship Game to be held. The MW expects to hold the first Championship Game in December 2013.
Beginning in 2013, the conference will split into two divisions of six teams for football. The Mountain West will also add a conference championship game pitting the winners of the Mountain and West divisions. This first championship game will take place December 7, 2013 at the home stadium of the divisional winner with the highest BCS ranking. Each team will play five divisional games and three cross-divisional contests annually.
The Mountain West Conference sponsors championship competition in eight men's and ten women's NCAA sanctioned sports. Hawai'i is an Associate member for football.
Men's varsity sports not sponsored by the Mountain West Conference which are played by current and future full MW members:
Women's varsity sports not sponsored by the Mountain West Conference which are played by current and future full MW members:
Since the 2009-10 season, the Mountain West and Missouri Valley Conferences have held an annual challenge series. Before the 2013–14 season, when the MW had fewer members than the MVC, it involved all members of the MW and an equal number of the 10 MVC teams in basketball. With the MW now having 11 members to the MVC's 10, future series are expected to involve all MVC teams, with one MW team sitting out each season. The first game was on November 13, 2009, featuring the Bradley Braves and the BYU Cougars in Provo and it concluded on December 23 with the Wyoming Cowboys visiting the Northern Iowa Panthers in Cedar Falls, Iowa. The challenge is similar to the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, which pits men's basketball teams from the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Big Ten Conference.
The Mountain West Conference will have agreements with the following bowls for 2012–13:
If Hawai‘i is bowl eligible and not MW champions or selected for a BCS bowl, they will receive a berth in the Hawai‘i Bowl.
ESPN created the Bowl Challenge Cup in 2002 for the conference that had the best college football bowl record among Division I Football Bowl Subdivision conferences. The conference has won it four times, more than any other. They finished 4-1 in bowl games in 2011, the best record out of all conferences.
(1) – Tied for 2005–06 championship
(2) – Tied for 2011–12 championship
The Mountain West's slogan is "Above the rest," and over half of the member institutions are at more than 4,000 feet (1,200 metres) above sea level. This impacts endurance in sports like football, soccer, and the distance races in track & field and swimming meets, and aerodynamics in baseball, softball, tennis, golf, and the discus and javelin throws. The Mountain West's institutions have the highest average elevations in NCAA Division I sports.
Elevation data obtained from the USGS Geographic Names Information System