The University of New Mexico is in the middle of a tug-of-war contest with its current TV provider, the Mountain West Sports Network, and as of now the station has a slight advantage.
The Mountain West Conference (MWC) and Conference USA (CUSA) are having a difficult time merging into one, whether it be the loss of basketball credits, or the gain of multiple TV contracts, The University of New Mexico’s (UNM) President, David Schmidly, said the move is inevitable.
Schmidly said the idea behind the realignment is to maximize the revenue of both conferences with TV contracts. “We have lost a lot of teams in the Mountain West. We’re at the point where we have to add more teams and Conference USA has had the same problem,” he said., “What we have is an unstable situation, and by combining the two (conferences) in some way, we now have more inventory to sell.”
Schmidly said three universities have accepted the invitation to join the MWC; California State University-Fresno, University of Nevada-Reno and University of Hawai’i-Mănoa. Mănoa’s football team is the only participating sports team in the MWC to give the conference exactly eight teams.
All of the university president’s have signed the formation agreement to combine the conferences in the MWC expect for one: Schmidly. “If you dissolve them (conferences) into one, we’ll lose votes at the NCAA, and we’ll lose votes at the BCS,” he said.
According to Head Basketball Coach Steve Alford, individual teams earn credits for how many votes it receives from NCAA officials depending on the number of appearances and wins it has in a NCAA tournament. Credits earned by individual teams equal revenue for its conference, and the credits get paid every six years. If a conference is owed money for a team’s tournament appearances and wins, but the conference is no longer in existence, then the money is paid directly to the specific school. If the two conferences combine, the MWC would lose out on almost $1.5 million from San Diego State University and Brigham Young University’s sweet 16 appearances and wins from past years.
“With Fresno and Nevada-Reno coming into our league next season and the potential of possibly adding Utah State and UTEP (University of Texas at El Paso), I would be most in favor of leaving our league alone,” Alford said. Currently, the MWC and CUSA each have a vote in the BCS and the NCAA annual meetings, but a realignment risks losing one of them.
Schmidly said the final decision is going to come down to the TV negotiations and how much money CBS, FOX and NBC are willing to pay for the inventory of the two conferences. “We have eight teams in the Mountain and eight teams in Conference USA, and that is more games that one network can take.” he said. “What we’re trying to do is maximize our revenue by negotiating with multiple networks, and we hope (it) will overcompensate the loss of basketball credits.”
Despite the loss of NCAA and BCS votes, the football team is one of the only sports programs to see the positive side of the realignment of the MWC and CUSA. Brian DeSpain, director of UNM football operations said, “Once the merger is complete, the new conference will be the only one in the country with a member institution in five American time zones.”
According to Schmidly, if the two conferences decide to combine, teams in the MWC will continue to play each other and the same for CUSA, except for maybe a postseason-play package for individual sports teams. But, one thing is for sure; the NCAA will have no input in the final decision, because it rests upon the 16-university presidents to make this realignment the first in history.