USA TODAY Sports
An idea crazy enough to work.
According to CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd, the Big East has talked with Fresno State and UNLV about joining the conference for football only. It's no secret that Commissioner Mike Aresco is aggressively trying to reload to fill the depleted conference following the losses of Rutgers and Louisville. Adding two more Western programs could persuade Boise State and San Diego State to stick with their commitment to the Big East.
The Mountain West is a bit vulnerable at the moment due to uncertainty surrounding the conference's next media rights contract. CBS is the current rights holder, a deal which expires in 2015. But with the conference's membership in a state of flux, the MWC is stuck a bit when it comes to inking its next TV deal.
Crazy to think that the reeling Big East could poach another conference not named Conference USA at this point.
Team Speed Kills recently suggested that the Big East and Mountain West should put the idea of a multi-conference merger back on the table. I'm coming around to this idea. Why should the Big East continue to pick off Mountain West teams -- effectively killing off the last remaining Western U.S. mid-major Division I-A conference -- when the Big East and Mountain West can co-exist?
The two conferences should consider a football-only merger of sorts. Not a full-blown merger, but two conferences with a scheduling agreement. Form two 12-team conferences -- no divisions -- where the conference champs play in a inter-conference title game for what would amount to a BCS at-large play-in game.
The Big East would send Boise State and San Diego State back to the infinitely more geographically sensible Mountain West, where they'd re-join Air Force, Colorado State, New Mexico, UNLV and Wyoming plus newcomers Fresno State, Hawaii, Nevada, San Jose State and Utah State.
Back east, the Big East would add Central Florida, East Carolina, Houston, Memphis, Navy, SMU and Tulane to get to 11 and then round it off by scooping up Army as a football-only member.
Big East: Army Black Knights, Central Florida Knights, Cincinnati Bearcats, Connecticut Huskies, East Carolina Pirates, Houston Cougars, Memphis Tigers, Navy Midshipmen, SMU Mustangs, South Florida Bulls, Temple Owls, Tulane Green Wave
Mountain West: Air Force Falcons, Boise St. Broncos, Colorado St. Rams, Fresno St. Bulldogs, Hawaii Warriors, Nevada Wolf Pack, New Mexico Lobos, San Diego St. Aztecs, San Jose St. Spartans, UNLV Rebels, Utah State Aggies, Wyoming Cowboys
Should the Big East lose UConn and Cincinnati in the process, the eastern league could reload with UMass and Florida International. Or add both to the Big East right off the bat to pair with Idaho and New Mexico State, which would be the neighborly thing to do for the Mountain West.
Teams would play nine games against teams from your own conference, missing two a year from your side. Within a league, there would be one permanent rival to protect traditional rivalries like Army-Navy and UNLV-Nevada:
Air Force-Colorado State
San Jose State-Fresno State
San Diego State-New Mexico
Central Florida-South Florida
Conference winners would meet in a inter-conference championship game at the home field of the team with the better record. That leaves each program with three non-conference games which can be used for:
a) paycheck games against I-AA opponents
b) paycheck games against the big boys
c) inter-conference games against teams from the other conference to protect traditional rivalries like Army-Air Force and Navy-Air Force
Putting the two best mid-majors together might just be crazy enough to work. This ensures consistent scheduling for both leagues. Gone would be the days where Big East teams are looking for five non-conference opponents a year. It allows for much more manageable travel schedules as the Big East-Mountain West scheduling agreement halves the country into geographically sensible leagues and likely leads to a stronger negotiating position when it comes to landing each conference's next football media rights deal. Finally, the multi-conference championship game would almost certainly be a yearly play-in game for the final major bowl game spot for the highest ranked team out of the "Gang of Five," giving the inter-conference championship game a bit more meaning.