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Boise State joins Mountain West Conference

The Mountain West Conference finally decided it could wait no longer, and neither could Boise State.

The MWC presidents, who earlier in the week opted to take a wait-and-see approach as expansion rumors swirled throughout college athletics, voted unanimously Friday to add the Western Athletic Conference school, and Boise State quickly accepted.

The Broncos will begin play in the Mountain West in 2011.

"We have deliberated long and hard, not just recently but over a number of years, in determining that Boise State is a wonderful addition to the Mountain West Conference on a number of levels," commissioner Craig Thompson said Friday.

Boise State, which has won two of the past four Fiesta Bowls, should enhance the conference’s Bowl Championship Series prospects, a major selling point.

Moving from the Western Athletic Conference to the more prestigious Mountain West should also help Boise State continue to grow.

"Our student-athletes, coaches and staff aspire to compete at the very highest level of intercollegiate athletics," Boise State athletic director Gene Bleymaier said, "and this move to the Mountain West affords us those opportunities."

The apparent dismantling of the Big 12 Conference — Colorado and Nebraska left for other leagues, and five more members could soon follow — puts the Mountain West in position to upgrade beyond the addition of Boise State.

Former Southeastern Conference commissioner Roy Kramer predicted to ESPN.com that "the Mountain West will evolve into a major conference."

That could happen if scenarios play out as expected.

Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M and Texas Tech could join the Pac-10 Conference after Tuesday’s meeting with the University of Texas board of regents. The SEC is also looking at Texas A&M.

Their pending departures would leave Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Baylor and Iowa State seeking homes. Thompson acknowledged having talked to Big 12 schools.

"In the Mountain West, if you throw in a Kansas and Kansas State and Boise State, that’s a pretty good 12-team conference right there," UNLV athletic director Jim Livengood said. "By adding Iowa State and Baylor, that’s a pretty good 14-team conference. And then there is no Big 12. Think of the possibilities with the BCS. It’d be hard to argue against being a BCS conference. It would depend on how they look at a 16-team Pac-10 Conference."

The Pac-10 could push for two automatic bids should it expand to 16 teams. Thompson had no answer for what would happen to the contracts that establish BCS parameters should the Big 12 disappear.

The Mountain West could also look outside the Big 12 to a school such as Houston in Conference USA. It would give the MWC a second major market in talent-rich Texas and a football program that went 10-4 last season.

Thompson said the Mountain West will not go back to the WAC for more members, meaning UNR will not enter the league.

He also said no decision has been made on whether to stay with 10 members or increase to as many as 16.

"I can’t predict that we are finished, but I know that we are continuing to look to grow the Mountain West Conference," Thompson said.

The league could have competition.

Other conferences might go after some of those Big 12 schools. And if Texas A&M goes to the SEC, the Pac-10 might invite Kansas or Mountain West member Utah.

If the Big 12 South schools decide to stay together to try to salvage that conference, then perhaps they would attempt to lure Brigham Young and Texas Christian from the Mountain West.

"In my opinion, there’s a greater chance of the Mountain West gaining schools than anything else if all these things happen that are purported to be happening," Livengood said.

Contact reporter Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2914.

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