MWC awaits falling dominoes

No longer is a 16-school Mountain West Conference out of the question, and a once far-fetched notion of inviting Big 12 members no longer appears unreasonable.

So instead of rushing to invite Boise State, as was expected by the end of the MWC presidents' meetings Monday in Jackson, Wyo., the league wants to wait until expansion-minded Bowl Championship Series conferences clarify their plans.

"Given the uncertainties in other leagues, we felt it was best to see how things pan out before proceeding," UNLV president Neal Smatresk said in a text message.

The Pacific-10 Conference is considering expanding to 16 schools, and the same could occur with the Big Ten and Southeastern conferences. Such moves could effectively end the Big 12, leaving many of its schools out of the mix -- such as Colorado, Kansas and Kansas State -- and available for the Mountain West to add.

There is also the chance that the Mountain West could lose members. Utah, in particular, has been linked to possible Pac-10 expansion.

"We've had members mentioned joining other leagues," Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson said at a news conference Monday. "I think it's all intertwined" in the presidents' consideration.

Thompson said there is no schedule for decisions to be made but that the presidents are prepared to move quickly.

"I think expansion is still very much alive," Thompson said. "We're not going to dictate the timeline, but we'll act accordingly. You could make a decision independent and separate, and that could be an outcome. You may be forced to act and react accordingly, but you can also set your own prerogative."

The Mountain West could have made such a decision regarding Boise State during the presidents' meetings but chose not to -- at least not yet. The Broncos, who have won two of the past four Fiesta Bowls, could boost the conference's hopes of receiving an automatic Bowl Championship Series bid.

Boise State has long made known its desire to join the MWC.

"The most appropriate action at this juncture is to wait and see how the variables unfold," Boise State president Bob Kustra said in a statement. "The opportunity has not been lost. Boise State will continue to grow, develop and excel as one of the premier institutions in the West, competing and partnering with the Western Athletic Conference schools to strengthen and enhance the WAC."

WAC commissioner Karl Benson, however, knows Boise State would prefer to be elsewhere.

"They made it very clear that their preference is to be in the Mountain West," Benson said. "On the other hand, if it doesn't work out, if it doesn't transpire, they will continue to be in the WAC and continue to be a very valuable member of the WAC."

If an offer from the Mountain West is extended by July 1, Boise State can accept and compete in the MWC during the 2011-12 academic year without penalty from the WAC. After that date, the Broncos would have to pay a penalty that Benson said would be determined by the WAC board of directors.

That gives the Mountain West freedom to wait a little longer, if necessary, to invite Boise State, because it's doubtful a financial penalty would preclude the Broncos from making the jump.

"The interest the (MWC) board had in Boise State going into the meetings probably hasn't changed going out (of) the meetings," Thompson said.

What has changed is the general college landscape. Thompson said Mountain West presidents considered staying with the current nine members or increasing to 10, 12 or 16 schools.

"Without getting into specific details," Thompson said, "everything is on the table."

Contact reporter Mark Anderson at or 702-387-2914.