When his hiring became official 12 months ago, New Mexico president Robert Frank saw a Mountain West Conference shrouded in uncertainty.
Frank looks at his conference now and sees something far different.
“We were struggling and looking toward our future and where we were going to go,” Frank said. “Now it's gone from a conference with an uncertain future to a contender of a conference. We're really pleased. Talk about our future has totally dissipated.”
Convincing Boise State and SDSU to rejoin the league obviously quelled a lot of fears. Boise State has been the top-ranked team among the smaller five conferences for much of the last decade. San Jose State and Utah State both finished the season ranked.
The Mountain West might not have three ranked teams every year, and the league is still tied to an outdated television contract until at least 2016, though the renegotiated right to shop certain games to other networks should help.
But with the smaller conferences to divide up to $86 million in annual playoff money starting in 2014-15, it pays to be No. 6 -- the next tray to be filled after the SEC and Co. make their way through the lunch line.
The Mountain West, at least on paper, has positioned itself for that spot. The league can get where it needs to be with 12 teams, Frank said.
The Mountain West has talked to a handful of Texas schools in recent months (UTEP, SMU, Houston), but there are no immediate plans to add. SMU and Houston appear committed to the Big East. Tulsa and the Mountain West have not been talking about a partnership.
“I think 12 is a good number,” Frank said. “I spoke with [men's basketball coach Steve Alford] today, and he thought 12 is a strong number. Many more than that would become difficult for scheduling.”
The Big East is also eyeing that No. 6 spot despite a brutal five-month stretch of defections.
With a football league built around UConn, Cincinnati, USF and old Conference USA parts, the Big East is talking with networks about a long-term television deal with a 12-team league and a conference championship game in mind, according to a Big East source.
The loss of Boise State and SDSU puts the Big East at 10 teams for the next two years. Navy will join the league in 2015. Tulsa has internal momentum inside the Big East offices for a potential 2014-15 add, though a timetable is uncertain at this point.