Mountain West Conference
|Mountain West Conference|
|Established||May 26, 1998|
|Region||Western United States|
|Headquarters||Colorado Springs, Colorado|
|Commissioner||Craig Thompson (since October 15, 1998)|
The Mountain West Conference (MW) is one of the collegiate athletic conferences affiliated with the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) (formerly I-A). The MW officially began operations on January 4, 1999. Geographically, the MW covers a broad expanse of the Western United States, with member schools located in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. Craig Thompson has served as Commissioner of the MW since October 15, 1998.
The charter members of the MW included the United States Air Force Academy, Brigham Young University, Colorado State University, San Diego State University, the University of New Mexico, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, University of Utah and the University of Wyoming. Before forming the Mountain West Conference, seven of its eight charter members had been longtime members of the Western Athletic Conference and half of these had been charter members of that conference from 1962. Overall, each school that has ever been either a full or football–only member of the MW spent at least three years in the WAC before joining the Mountain West.
The creation of the MW was a delayed aftereffect of the 1996 NCAA conference realignment, which had initially been triggered two years earlier when the Big Eight Conference agreed to merge with four members of the Southwest Conference (SWC) to create the Big 12 Conference, which would begin competition in the 1996–97 school year.
The Western Athletic Conference, which had initially announced plans to expand beyond its then-current 10 members to at least 12, ended up with even more potential expansion prospects. Ultimately, the WAC took in three of the four SWC schools left out of the Big 12 merger—Rice University, Southern Methodist University (SMU), and Texas Christian University (TCU). Three other schools were added to bring the total membership to 16, namely Big West Conference members San Jose State University and UNLV, plus the University of Tulsa, an NCAA football independent and otherwise a member of the Missouri Valley Conference. The WAC's 16 teams were divided into four four-team "quadrants", two of which rotated between the Mountain and Pacific Divisions every two years. However, the newly expanded WAC was soon wracked by tension between the established and new members.
In spring 1998, BYU and Utah proposed a permanent split into two eight-team divisions. The proposal would have forced some schools into an unnatural alignment because of the geographic distribution of the conference. Air Force was the most strident opponent of this proposal, threatening to become an independent. Soon after the proposal by BYU and Utah, the presidents of Air Force, BYU, Colorado State, Utah, and Wyoming met at Denver International Airport to discuss their future, and they agreed to break away from the WAC to form a new conference. They invited the WAC members New Mexico, San Diego State, and UNLV to join them in what became the Mountain West Conference.
On June 11, 2010, Boise State University agreed to join the conference as its tenth member. On June 17, 2010, Utah announced it would be leaving the Mountain West to join what would become the Pac-12 Conference. On August 18, 2010, amidst rumors that BYU was considering leaving the Mountain West to go independent in football and rejoin the Western Athletic Conference in all other sports, the Mountain West Conference officially extended invitations to California State University, Fresno (Fresno State) and the University of Nevada, Reno (Nevada). Both schools accepted and would become the tenth and eleventh members of the league. BYU announced on August 31, 2010 that it would leave the Mountain West Conference and go Independent in football and become a member of the West Coast Conference (WCC) in other sports starting in 2011. On November 29, 2010, TCU announced all athletic teams would move to the Big East Conference effective in 2012. (Less than a year later, on October 10, 2011, TCU announced it would not join the Big East but would join the Big 12, home to fellow former SWC members Baylor, Texas, Texas Tech, and formerly Texas A&M, in 2012 instead.) On December 10, 2010, the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa accepted a bid to become the 10th member of the conference for football only. These changes would leave the Mountain West Conference with 10 teams for the 2012 football season.
During the era of football's Bowl Championship Series (BCS), which was replaced by the College Football Playoff (CFP) in 2014, the MW champion qualified for a BCS bowl four times after the BCS formula was tweaked to allow teams from non-BCS conferences to play in BCS bowls if ranked in the top 12. However, two of the three schools that qualified are no longer with the conference.
On October 14, 2011, the Mountain West and C-USA announced a plan for a football only alliance. On February 13, 2012, the two leagues announced that both conferences would be dissolving after the 2012–13 season to reform into one conference with at least 15 members for all sports, and a 16th team, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa as a football-only member. However, when the two conferences discussed their plans with the NCAA, they were told that due to NCAA rules, they would forfeit substantial revenues. Specifically, the new conference would receive only one automatic bid to NCAA championships; at least one of the former conferences would lose future revenue distributions from the NCAA men's basketball tournament; and at least one former conference would not be able to collect exit fees from any members that departed to join the new conference. As a result, the Mountain West and C-USA backed away from a full merger. In late March of that year, the commissioners of both conferences stated that all 16 schools had entered into binding agreements to form a new "association", although the Mountain West and C-USA would have apparently remained separate legal entities. In the end, this alliance never materialized due to both conferences soon adding new teams.
On May 2, 2012, San Jose State and Utah State agreed to join the conference for the 2013–14 academic year. On December 31 of that year, Boise State announced that it had backed out of its previously announced move to the Big East for football and the Big West for other sports, and would remain in the MW.
On January 16, 2013, San Diego State accepted an offer to remain/return to the Mountain West Conference in all sports. Keeping SDSU in the conference gives the Mountain West 12 football members, allowing for a Championship Game to be held. The first championship game took place on December 7, 2013.
Potential further expansion
In February 2018, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported that the MW was looking to expand in the near future. In the report, commissioner Craig Thompson revealed that the conference had discussed expansion with six schools, with WCC member Gonzaga (which has not sponsored football since World War II) the only school mentioned by name. Thompson added that Gonzaga could potentially join the MW as a full but non-football member as early as July 2018. While Thompson said that BYU had not contacted the conference, the report indicated that BYU would be open to an MW return, at least in non-football sports, should Gonzaga join. A later Union-Tribune report indicated that talks were advanced enough that the conference's presidents planned a vote on an invitation to Gonzaga during the MW men's and women's basketball tournaments in Las Vegas, but decided to delay the vote until after the Final Four. However, on April 2, the day of the Division I men's title game, Gonzaga athletic director Mike Roth notified the MW, the WCC, and media that the school would remain in the WCC for the immediate future.
|Colorado College||Colorado Springs, Colorado||1874||2,131||Tigers||2014||soccer (W)||Southern Collegiate|
|University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa (Hawaiʻi)||Honolulu, Hawaiʻi||1907||18,865||Rainbow Warriors||2012||football||Big West|
|Brigham Young University (BYU)||Provo, Utah||1875||Cougars||1999||2011||West Coast /|
Independent (football only)
|Texas Christian University (TCU)||Fort Worth, Texas||1873||Horned Frogs||2005||2012||Big 12|
|University of Utah||Salt Lake City, Utah||1850||Utes||1999||2011||Pac-12|
Full members Associate members (football only) Associate members (other)
NCAA team championships
Excluded from this list are all national championships earned outside the scope of NCAA competition, including Division I FBS football titles, women's AIAW championships (17), equestrian titles (0), and retroactive Helms Athletic Foundation titles.
|San Jose State||10||7||3||0|
|San Diego State||1||1||0||0|
The Mountain West Conference sponsors championship competition in eight men's and ten women's NCAA sanctioned sports. Hawai'i is only an associate member for football, and Colorado College is only an associate member for women's soccer.
|San Diego State||N||N||N||5|
|San Jose State||N||7|
- Fresno State will drop men's tennis at the end of the 2020–21 school year.
Men's varsity sports not sponsored by the Mountain West Conference which are played by MW members
|Air Force||Independent||MPSF||Atlantic Hockey||SoCon||PRC||WAC||WAC||WWPA||Big 12|
|Fresno State||Big 12[c]|
|San Diego State||Pac-12|
|San Jose State||WAC||GCC|
- Fencing is officially a coeducational team sport, although a few schools field only a women's team. Air Force, like most NCAA fencing schools, has a coed team with men's and women's squads.
- Rifle is technically a men's sport, but men's, women's, and coed teams all compete against each other. Air Force fields a coed team.
- Fresno State will drop men's wrestling at the end of the 2020–21 school year.
|San Diego State||10|
|San Jose State||10|
Women's varsity sports not sponsored by the Mountain West Conference which are played by MW members
|San Diego State||MPSF||American[d]||Golden Coast|
|San Jose State||Independent||MPSF||MPSF|
- Fencing is officially a coeducational team sport, although a few schools field only a women's team. Air Force, like most NCAA fencing schools, has a coed team with men's and women's squads.
- Rifle is technically a men's sport, but men's, women's, and coed teams all compete against each other. Air Forces fields a coed team.
- Fresno State will drop women's lacrosse at the end of the 2020–21 school year.
- San Diego State will drop women's rowing at the end of the 2020-21 school year.
Totals and records following the completion of the 2020 football season.
|Air Force||Colorado State||Air Force–Colorado State football rivalry||Ram-Falcon Trophy||58
|Hawai'i||Air Force–Hawai'i football rivalry||Kuter Trophy||22
|Boise State||Fresno State||Boise State–Fresno State football rivalry||Milk Can||22
|Nevada||Boise State–Nevada football rivalry||—||43
|Fresno State||Boise State||Boise State–Fresno State football rivalry||Milk Can||22
|Hawai'i||Fresno State–Hawai'i football rivalry||The Golden Screwdriver||53
|San Diego State||Battle for the Oil Can||Old Oil Can||59
|25–30–4||San Diego State|
|San Jose State||Fresno State–San Jose State football rivalry||Valley Trophy||83
|Colorado State||Air Force||Air Force–Colorado State football rivalry||Ram-Falcon Trophy||58
|Wyoming||Border War||Bronze Boot||112
|Hawai'i||Air Force||Air Force–Hawai'i football rivalry||Kuter Trophy||22
|Fresno State||Fresno State–Hawai'i football rivalry||The Golden Screwdriver||53
|Wyoming||Hawai'i–Wyoming football rivalry||Paniolo Trophy||25
|Nevada||Boise State||Boise State–Nevada football rivalry||—||43
|UNLV||Battle for Nevada||Fremont Cannon||46
|UNLV||Nevada||Battle for Nevada||Fremont Cannon||46
|San Diego State||Fresno State||Battle for the Oil Can||Old Oil Can||59
|30–25–4||San Diego State|
|San Jose State||Fresno State||Fresno State–San Jose State football rivalry||Valley Trophy||83
|Utah State||Wyoming||Bridger's Battle||Bridger Rifle||70
|Wyoming||Colorado State||Border War||Bronze Boot||112
|Hawai'i||Hawai'i–Wyoming football rivalry||Paniolo Trophy||25
|Utah State||Bridger's Battle||Bridger Rifle||70
Non–conference (including other sports)
|Air Force / Army / Navy||1972||Commander-in-Chief's Trophy||Army
|Boise State||Idaho||1971||Battle of Idaho||Governor's Cup||Boise State
|Colorado State||Colorado||1893||Rocky Mountain Showdown||Centennial Cup||Colorado
|New Mexico||Arizona||1908||Arizona–New Mexico football rivalry||Kit Carson Rifle||Arizona
|New Mexico||New Mexico State||1894||Rio Grande Rivalry||New Mexico
|San Jose State||Stanford||1900||Bill Walsh Legacy Game||Stanford
|Utah State / Brigham Young / Utah||1971||Beehive Boot||Utah
|Utah State||Brigham Young||1922||Battle for The Old Wagon Wheel||The Old Wagon Wheel||BYU
|Utah State||Utah||1892||Battle of the Brothers||Utah
Beginning in 2013, the conference split into two divisions, named the "Mountain Division" and "West Division," of six teams each for football. The Mountain West also added a conference championship game, pitting the winners of the two divisions. This first championship game took place on December 7, 2013 at Bulldog Stadium in Fresno, California, the home stadium of Fresno State, the divisional winner with the higher BCS ranking. Each team plays five divisional games and three cross-divisional contests annually. The 2015 championship game featured the Air Force Academy Falcons against the San Diego State University Aztecs. The 2016 championship game featured the San Diego State University Aztecs against the University of Wyoming Cowboys.
|Mountain Division||West Division|
|Air Force||Fresno State|
|Utah State||San Diego State|
|Wyoming||San Jose State|
- No other MW sport is split into divisions — including women's soccer, the only other conference sport with 12 competing schools (with Colorado College as the 12th member).
The Mountain West Conference has agreements with six bowls.
Since the 2014 season, the Mountain West champion is eligible for an at-large berth in the Cotton Bowl Classic, Fiesta Bowl, or Peach Bowl, if it is the highest-ranked conference champion among the "Group of Five" conferences (which also includes The American, C-USA, MAC, and Sun Belt) in the final College Football Playoff rankings, if it is not in the top 4. In the 2014 season, Boise State became the first team to receive this berth, being selected for and winning the Fiesta Bowl.
As of 2020,
|1||LA Bowl||Inglewood, California||Pac-12||5|
|Non–specific||Hawaii Bowl||Honolulu, Hawaii||The American||Non–specific|
|Non–specific||Famous Idaho Potato Bowl||Boise, Idaho||MAC||Non–specific|
|Non–specific||New Mexico Bowl||Albuquerque, New Mexico||C-USA||Non–specific|
|Non–specific||Arizona Bowl||Tucson, Arizona||MAC||Non–specific|
|Conditional*||Cactus Bowl||Phoenix, Arizona||Big 12 or Pac-12||6 (Big 12) or 7 (Pac-12)|
|Conditional*||San Francisco Bowl||Santa Clara, California||Big Ten or Pac-12||Non–specific (Big Ten) or 4 (Pac-12)|
- If Hawaii is bowl eligible and not MW champions or selected for a CFP bowl, they will receive a berth in the Hawaii Bowl.
- The MW will only send a team to the Cactus or San Francisco Bowls if one of the primary conferences affiliated with those bowls is unable to fill their slots.
As of the 2019–20 bowl games
|Boise State||20[a]||12||7||0||.632||3–0||2 — 1958 (NJCAA), 1980 (NCAA Division I-AA[b])|
|San Diego State||18||9||9||0||.500||0–0||3 — 1966–1968 (NCAA College Division[c])|
|San Jose State||10||7||3||0||.700||0–0||0|
- Appeared in the 2018 First Responder Bowl, but the game was canceled midway through the first quarter due to lightning.
- In 2006, "Division I-AA" was renamed "Division I Football Championship Subdivision" or "Division I FCS" for short.
- The "NCAA College Division" was split into today's "NCAA Division II" and "NCAA Division III" in 1973. The NCAA considers all College Division championships to be part of the histories of Division II championships in the same sports.
Bowl Challenge Cup
ESPN created the Bowl Challenge Cup in 2002 for the conference that had the best college football bowl record among Division I Football Bowl Subdivision conferences. The conference has won it four times, more than any other conference, by finishing with bowl game records of 2-1 in 2004–05, 4-1 in 2007–08, 4-1 in 2009–10, and 4-1 in 2010–11.
The Mountain West and Missouri Valley Conferences hold an annual challenge series that was renewed in the 2015–16 season after a two-year hiatus. The series began in the 2009-10 season but temporarily ended when the original contract ran out after the 2012-13 season, During the first four seasons of the series, it involved all members of the MW and an equal number of the 10 MVC teams in basketball. With the MW now having 11 basketball members to the MVC's 10, the renewed series involves all MVC teams, with one MW team sitting out.
The first game was on November 13, 2009, featuring the Bradley Braves and the BYU Cougars in Provo and it concluded on December 23 with the Wyoming Cowboys visiting the Northern Iowa Panthers in Cedar Falls, Iowa. The challenge is similar to the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, which pits men's basketball teams from the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Big Ten Conference.
NCAA tournament records
|San Diego State||12||6||12||.333||0.444||0|
|San Jose State||3||0||3||.000||0.000||0|
NCAA tournament records
|San Diego State||9||6||9||.400||0.571||0|
|San Jose State||0||0||0||–||0.000||0|
The Mountain West's slogan is "Above the rest," and over half of the member institutions, plus women's soccer-only member Colorado College, are at more than 4,000 feet (1,200 metres) above sea level. This impacts endurance in sports like football, soccer, and the distance races in track & field and swimming meets; air resistance in sprints and horizontal jumps in track & field; and aerodynamics in baseball, softball, tennis, golf, and the discus and javelin throws. The Mountain West's institutions have the highest average elevations in NCAA Division I sports.
Campus and football stadium elevations
Schools in italics are single-sport members. In the case of women's soccer-only member Colorado College, "Stadium Elevation" refers to the school's soccer venue.
|Air Force Academy||7,258||6,621|
|San Diego State||433||25|
|San Jose State||85||93|
Elevation by conference
Campus Elevation (ft)
|Mountain West||3,596||3,305 for football schools, including Hawaiʻi|
3,801 for women's soccer schools, including Colorado College
- Elevation data obtained from the USGS Geographic Names Information System
- Murray, Chris (August 18, 2017). "Face of the Mountain West: Craig Thompson has been conference's anchor for 19 years". Reno Gazette-Journal. Archived from the original on August 22, 2017. Retrieved August 21, 2017.
- Deinhart, Tom (September 14, 2011). "WAC a cautionary tale for superconferences". Rivals.com. Yahoo! Sports. Archived from the original on September 28, 2013. Retrieved July 12, 2013.
- "Fresno State, Nevada to remain in WAC until 2012". ESPN. 2010-10-28. Retrieved 2013-08-09.
- Adelson, Andrea. "Utah State turned down invite to MWC". ESPN. Retrieved 2013-08-09.
- "BYU to leave Mountain West Conference, join West Coast Conference in all sports except football". ESPN. 2010-09-01. Retrieved 2013-08-09.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on December 1, 2010. Retrieved 2010-11-29.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
- "TCU Accepts Invitation To Join Big 12 Conference". TCU Athletic Department. October 10, 2011. Archived from the original on October 12, 2011. Retrieved October 11, 2011.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on December 13, 2010. Retrieved 2010-12-10.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
- "Mountain West, Conference USA announce football-only alliance". ESPN. 2011-10-15. Retrieved 2013-08-09.
- "MWC, C-USA to form new league". CNN. February 13, 2012.
- McMurphy, Brett (April 17, 2012). "Conference Mountain West merger "unlikely"". College Football Insider. CBSSports.com. Retrieved April 21, 2012.
- McMurphy, Brett (March 28, 2012). "New C-USA, MWC league will be completed by early June". College Football Insider. CBSSports.com. Retrieved April 10, 2012.
- McMurphy, Brett (December 31, 2012). "Boise State spurns Big East". ESPN. Retrieved December 31, 2012.
- Mountain West planning title game with 'addition' of SDSU
- Zeigler, Mark (February 28, 2018). "Mountain West confirms it has talked expansion with ... Gonzaga". San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved March 1, 2018.
- Zeigler, Mark (March 7, 2018). "Is Gonzaga (and maybe BYU) really coming to the Mountain West?". San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved March 10, 2018.
- Meehan, Jim (April 2, 2018). "Gonzaga athletic director Mike Roth says Zags staying in WCC". The Spokesman-Review. Spokane, WA. Retrieved April 2, 2018.
- "Mountain West Conference". Themwc.com. Retrieved 2013-08-09.
- "Fresno State Athletics Announces Program Changes" (Press release). Fresno State Bulldogs. October 16, 2020. Retrieved October 17, 2020.
- Paul Myerberg, USA TODAY Sports (2013-01-22). "Mountain West splits 12 football schools into six-team divisions". Usatoday.com. Retrieved 2013-08-09.
- "Mountain West Conference". Themwc.com. Archived from the original on 2013-02-16. Retrieved 2013-08-09.
- 2007 Bowl Challenge Cup standings
- Mountain West Posts Top Bowl Win Percentage Among FBS Subdivision Conferences
- "2009-2010 Conference Bowl Wins". Archived from the original on 2010-01-05. Retrieved 2010-01-12.
- Adelson, Andrea. "Mountain West wins Bowl Challenge Cup". ESPN. Retrieved 2013-08-09.
- "Missouri Valley, MWC to start basketball series". Las Vegas Review-Journal. January 15, 2009. Retrieved January 16, 2009.
- "UH Athletics Prepares to Play Football On-Campus in 2021" (Press release). UH Athletics. Retrieved January 11, 2021.