by Ralph Routon
Even after losing the University of Utah in 2011, the Mountain West Conference will not be adding further to the scramble among major-college leagues to add more members.
Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson, in a teleconference Thursday afternoon from the league's Colorado Springs office, emphasized that the MWC will be staying with nine members for the indefinite future.
Utah will be leaving a year from now to join the Pacific 10 Conference, but at the same time, Boise State will be moving in from the Western Athletic Conference to replace the Utes.
Thompson acknowledged that he received many phone calls from schools interested in joining the Mountain West, and rumors had been widespread that the league might add the University of Houston, Fresno State and perhaps SMU. That would have taken the Mountain West up to 12 members, opening the way for a league championship game in football.
But apparently the Mountain West is less interested in a championship game than it is in breaking into the ranks of member conferences with automatic berths in the Bowl Championship Series. Boise State helps the MWC in that quest, but those other possible members don't make a big difference. Sure, Houston would bring one of the nation's top TV markets, as would SMU (Dallas, though TCU is just 30 miles away in Fort Worth).
Instead, apparently the Mountain West is content to sit back and see what happens next with the Big 12. The possibilities there are extreme:
On one end, the Big 12 still could fall apart if the promised TV revenues that held the league together don't materialize, or if Texas A&M might bolt for the Southeastern Conference.
Or, if the Big 12 decides it's important to get back to 12 members (keeping its football championship game alive) even after losing Nebraska and Colorado, the Big 12 reportedly could look to the Mountain West and perhaps even try to woo Brigham Young and Air Force. But there has been no confirmation of that rumor.