Updated December 1, 2023 - 6:00 pm
Gloria Nevarez is commissioner of the Mountain West, which stages its football championship game Saturday when UNLV hosts Boise State at Allegiant Stadium.
But the big news around the league Friday had more to do with the future than the present. A scheduling update trumped whether the Rebels or the Broncos will lift a shiny trophy at game’s end.
What happened: The conference announced an agreement for the 2024 season with the two lone remaining Pac-12 schools in Oregon State and Washington State. All Mountain West football teams will face the Beavers or the Cougars.
What it also means: Each conference school will now play seven league games instead of eight. Neither Oregon State nor Washington State are eligible for the Mountain West championship and matchups against the two schools also won’t count in the conference standings.
It’s a seven-plus-one concept.
“(Oregon State and Washington State) look a lot like our schools in the Mountain West,” said Nevarez, speaking at a news conference for the championship game. “We truly believe the competitive strength of schedule these two teams will bring to our league will really help enhance our positioning for the expanded college football playoff (in 2024).”
Said UNLV coach Barry Odom: “This (agreement) only makes our league more powerful and stronger.”
The deal, according to reports, includes a $14 million direct payment to the Mountain West.
Oh, yeah. There’s also a game going on Saturday.
It’s the first time UNLV will play for a Mountain West title while Boise State will be making its seventh championship game appearance. It’s also true the Rebels being good for the first time in what seems like forever is a positive for the conference.
For the brand defined by a city in which the league already has a strong foothold.
For more than just UNLV.
“I love the storyline of a first-year coach taking his team through the league like this,” Nevarez said. “It really has been fun for us to watch. To have a school from here in (the championship game) is very exciting.”
UNLV and Boise State emerged as the matchup after a three-way tie for first place with San Jose State was resolved by four different computer rankings. The Broncos haven’t been their usual dominant selves this season, arriving to Las Vegas with a 7-5 record. They’re also being directed by an interim coach in Spencer Danielson.
Boise State fired Andy Avalos following a 5-5 start.
Odom attended the press conference with four of his players Friday and the group posed for a picture with the championship trophy afterwards.
“Coach Odom has done a phenomenal job,” Danielson said. “The credit he’s getting, he deserves every bit of it. To take a team — I don’t even know the last time they were in a bowl game — and be able to have their record and play for a championship in his first season … hats off to him, hats off to his staff, hats off to his players.
“UNLV in all three phases works hard, and they’re well coached. They’re not making stupid mistakes. Coach Odom has done a hell of a job.”
For the record, UNLV last made a bowl in 2013.
It plays for a conference championship Saturday.
Pretty heady stuff. Almost as much as a schedule change.