Mountain West Conference can make nice with defectors


Cue the theme music to "The Twilight Zone."

This isn't really a new dimension, university presidents who own oversized egos and shortsighted views when it comes to making the right decisions concerning collegiate athletics.

Instead of anyone making a journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination, we usually get small-time thinkers who can't get out of the way of themselves.

Don't be fooled by walls filled with degrees.

These often are some of the more simple-minded sorts you will meet.

You have heard Ohio State president Gordon Gee speak on athletics, yes?

Mountain West Conference presidents today shouldn't be debating whether Boise State, San Diego State and Brigham Young remain in or return to the league, but rather campaigning for it.

College realignment has not yet met its end, and it's important the Mountain West constantly be surveying the landscape and assuring it is as strong an entity as possible, no matter how many feelings have been hurt as others searched for what they believed were better options at the time.

In short, to those MWC presidents balking at the idea of making nice with the likes of the Broncos, Aztecs and Cougars, schools that boast nationally recognized programs in either football or men's basketball: Get over it.

"I believe that for some, it takes longer to get over those feeling than for others," UNLV athletic director Jim Livengood said. "But in this day and age, with the movement of schools back and forth, the idea you like someone the next day and are mad at them the next and then like them again, it's important egos don't get in the way of making (intelligent) decisions."

Would the Mountain West be much better and stronger if a combination of or all three returned?

"Absolutely," Livengood said.

Nothing guarantees any of this will happen, but as more and more programs defect from the Big East, the conference Boise State and San Diego State thought it would be entering in 2013 isn't anywhere close to what was forecast.

It's like thinking you're going to Disneyland and arriving to find one, outdated carousel ride.

The Broncos and Aztecs chose to leave for three primary reasons, all of which now are solved within the Mountain West or likely not attainable in the Big East: a better opportunity for inclusion into the Bowl Championship Series, far more TV revenue and greater exposure for their athletic programs back East.

Mostly, they viewed it as a way to make a significant amount of money not available in the Mountain West.

Nothing wrong with that. It just won't be possible now, at least not the $6 million annually that Boise State and San Diego State counted on when announcing their moves.

Rutgers was the latest Big East team to bolt the conference this week, and by the time you take a bite of turkey and stuffing Thursday, the likes of Louisville or Connecticut could be gone as well.

Believe it: High-ranking TV executives aren't bidding ridiculous sums of cash to land a Big East contract given what the membership will resemble a few years from now.

"In athletics, we deal with setbacks and challenges every day," San Diego State athletic director Jim Sterk said. "I think we are trained to regroup and come back stronger. When we looked at the Big East to begin with, we knew there would be some change (in membership).

"I still believe in its national strategy and think it can pay off in terms of exposure and revenue. I'm one to move forward and not backward. I don't see at this point (San Diego State remaining in the MWC)."

Translation: Or at least until Boise State changes its mind.

Sterk does a good job of talking forever and not saying much, but know that Boise State and its football program will lead this train, much as it did when deciding to accept the Big East's invitation. BYU, meanwhile, suddenly finds life as a football independent not all that appealing given the parameters set forth to qualify for a four-team national playoff that begins in 2014.

None of the three ultimately might decide the Mountain West is their best fit. But conversations have occurred. Decisions are being second-guessed. Programs are thinking about hitting the PAUSE button.

Mountain West presidents need to, for once, think big picture here.

If there is a viable chance of one day offering a league that includes Boise State, San Diego State and BYU, egos need to stand aside.

Maybe none of this goes down.

But that doesn't mean the Mountain West shouldn't go to the end trying to make it happen.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on "Gridlock," ESPN 1100 and 98.9 FM. Follow him on Twitter: @edgraney.

 

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