League awaits UNR, Fresno State deal

UNR and Fresno State continue to talk with the Western Athletic Conference, seeking an agreement regarding their defection to the Mountain West Conference.

UNR and Fresno State want to leave next year, but the WAC argues that both schools failed to notify the conference in time and thus must stay through the 2011-12 academic year. The WAC also says each school owes a $5 million exit fee.

There could be room for middle ground. Maybe both schools stay on for another year and don’t pay the buyout, keeping the WAC alive long enough to piece together a conference that includes schools such as Texas-San Antonio and Texas State.

The MWC athletic directors met in Denver on Tuesday to discuss their options while awaiting a resolution to the WAC situation. Their most pressing need is figuring out what to do about football schedules.

"We’re still in discussions with everybody," UNLV athletic director Jim Livengood said.

The Rebels’ schedule will be set if UNR and Fresno State leave the WAC next year. Fresno State would simply take the place of Brigham Young, which has opted to play an independent schedule.

If UNR and Fresno State stay another year, the Rebels will need a 12th opponent, and it’s doubtful they would call West Virginia again. Perhaps a Texas-San Antonio or Texas State would fill the void.

It would have to be a home game. The Rebels are already scheduled to play seven road games next season.

Football schedules aren’t the only concern. With BYU and Utah leaving the Mountain West, the league’s television committee met in New York last week to gauge where its TV package stands.

■ ON THE MEND — UNLV’s injury list dropped from 25 names last week to 20, but linebacker Starr Fuimaono (leg) and defensive end Daniel Mareko (arm) are doubtful for Saturday’s 11 a.m. PDT game at Colorado State.

It’s also uncertain whether suspended wide receiver Phillip Payne will play. Hauck was asked about Payne on the league teleconference Tuesday.

"I’m not going to get into that today," he said. "If you need a quote, you can look at the Las Vegas papers."

Payne practiced with the scout team Tuesday.

■ MURDERERS’ ROW — UNLV isn’t the only Mountain West team with a killer schedule this season. Wyoming has played three teams that were ranked in the top five when they met.

The Cowboys lost 34-7 to then-No. 5 Texas, 51-6 to No. 3 Boise State and 45-0 to then-No. 5 Texas Christian.

Wyoming (2-4, 0-2 Mountain West) also lost 20-14 to Air Force, which was unranked at the time but is now No. 23, and hosts No. 11 Utah on Saturday.

"We’ve closed the book on the first six weeks," coach Dave Christensen said. "We have an opportunity in front of us to still win some games and the opportunity to play in the postseason."

The Cowboys’ final four games are against San Diego State, at New Mexico, at UNLV and against Colorado State. All four are winnable, and a sweep would make Wyoming bowl eligible regardless of what happens the next two weeks against Utah and at BYU.

■ LOVE OF THE GAME — Since becoming BYU’s coach in December 2004, Bronco Mendenhall has given up many day-to-day details that are assigned to assistants, including working directly with players.

But when he fired defensive coordinator Jaime Hill a week ago, Mendenhall took a more active role, which might have helped BYU defeat San Diego State 24-21 on Saturday.

"It’s probably the most fun I’ve had in six years," Mendenhall said. "It’s very invigorating. I love being with the players again."

The Cougars also received some help against San Diego State. Three replay officials were suspended for a game for failing to overturn a call and award a BYU fumble to the Aztecs.

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

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