Presidents from the Mountain West and Conference USA will meet Sunday in Dallas to discuss forming a new league, CBSSports.com has learned.
The move was not described as a full-on merger and talks are still in the early stages. According to a source, the new league could be football only, all sports or some other consolidation. Two sources said not all of the two conferences’ presidents will attend the meeting.
But there is urgency on both sides. Raiding by the Big East has caused each conference to reconsider its future. Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson told CBSSports.com last week that he is concerned about membership issues in light of recent defections. The NCAA requires a league to have at least six members that sponsor, at a minimum, eight men’s sports and six women’s sports.
The leagues announced in October that they were forming a football “association” for scheduling purposes. Back then, the idea was for the champions of the two leagues to play with the winner getting an automatic BCS berth. That was before the Big East moved aggressively to invite a combined five schools from both conferences.
A 90-day memorandum of understanding that came out of the October announcement expires on Sunday, the same day as the meeting.
Also in October, the Mountain West and Conference USA proposed a consortium with the Big East that would include more than a quarter of the 120 FBS schools.
CBSSports.com’s Brett McMurphy reported in December that the two leagues were looking at an all-sports merger. Boise State and San Diego State from the Mountain West as well as SMU, Houston and Central Florida from Conference USA were formally invited to the Big East in early December.
Crippling the leagues further: According to an industry source, Boise, SMU and Houston comprise three of the four most TV-attractive schools from the current Mountain West and Conference USA. Air Force is the other.
The earliest the new league being reported today could begin play is 2013, but that start date may have to be pushed back.
With the apparent end of automatic qualifying conferences (beginning in 2014), the two leagues would be fortifying themselves are strongly as possible. One Conference USA school source speculated how different a new league would be from the new Big East in terms of football strength and television viability. The answer as of now: Not much.