Boise State's decision Monday to remain in the Mountain West Conference forced the league to "tear up" its football schedule for next fall and start over from scratch, commissioner Craig Thompson said in conference call.
As a result, neither Colorado State University nor any of the other 10 football-playing members of the MW know who they will face in their eight league games next fall. And for those who were counting on a game at Hawaii, as CSU was, they might have to drop a nonconference game if they added a 13th game to help cover the costs of that trip, as NCAA rules permit.
"Everything's on the table," CSU athletic director Jack Graham said.
And it's likely to remain that way for another month or two.
Thompson said the MW is conducting talks with San Diego State about whether or not it will reconsider its decision to join the Big East Conference next fall, now that Boise State has backed out of its plans to move from the MW to the Big East. But the MW also is discussing possible membership with a handful of other schools. So rather than move ahead with a conference schedule for an 11-team league, Thompson said the MW will hold off a bit and see whether or not the league's presidents and athletic directors want to grow to 12 or more teams, possibly in a two-division format with an end-of-season championship game.
The MW had 10 teams this year and is adding San Jose State and Utah State next fall, making it an 11-team league, with Boise State back in. For now.
Should San Diego State follow Boise State's lead and negotiate terms to remain a member of the MW, the league would have 12 football-playing schools next fall. Thompson admitted there have been informal talks with the MW and Brigham Young about that school, one of the league's eight founding members in 1999-2000, returning. And several published reports have said the MW is talking to Houston and SMU, two Conference USA members planning to join the Big East next fall, about possible membership.
"We have had, and will continue to have, conversations with a number of institutions," Thompson said Monday. "So, I don't know that I can say today that on Aug. 1, we will be an 11-team conference."
CSU added a 13th game to its 2013 schedule three weeks ago, announcing it would play at Alabama on Sept. 21, and again in either 2015 or 2017 ? other years the Rams had been told by the MW they could count on playing league games at Hawaii. CSU already had four other nonconference games scheduled for 2013 ? Aug. 31 in Denver against Colorado, Sept. 7 at Tulsa, Sept. 14 at home against Cal Poly and Sept. 28 at home against UTEP.
Should the new MW schedule not include a trip to Hawaii next fall, the Rams will have to drop one of those games, move it to a different season or get a special waiver from the NCAA to play an extra game.
CSU has only scheduled three nonconference games for 2014-16, so there's room to accommodate a rescheduled 2013 game in any of those seasons and to accommodate a 2015 game at Alabama, even if the Rams only have a 12-game schedule that season.
Regardless of how the chips fall, Thompson said the league is running out of time to accommodate additional membership changes for the 2013 football season. Conference schedules have to be set soon so CBS-Sports Network, the league's primary media rights holder, can select the games it plans to televise before the conference shops for another network or two to televise its remaining games. That would be allowed under terms of a restructured contract agreed to just before Christmas.
Individual schools want to get their schedules soon so they can start selling season tickets and setting kickoff times. And coaches want to know who they'll be playing and when and where those games will be, CSU's Jim McElwain said. That would allow CSU to start studying film of their opponents and making travel arrangements for road games.
"The timeline is certainly going to be an important part of any network (TV) deal, but I don't think anybody's going to be a slave to a two-month time frame if it's going to take a bit more time to get it right," Graham said. "... There's a lot to be done, and we'll get it done as fast as we can without compromising the quality of what we're doing."
CSU nonconference schedules
(All games, dates tentative)
2013: Aug. 31, vs. Colorado (in Denver); Sept. 7 at Tulsa; Sept. 14 vs. Cal Poly; Sept. 21, at Alabama; Sept. 28, vs, UTEP
2014: Aug. 30, vs. Colorado (in Denver); Sept. 6, vs. Tulsa; Sept. 20, at UTEP
2015: Sept. 12, vs. Minnesota; Sept. 19, vs. Colorado (in Denver); Oct. 3, at Texas-San Antonio
2016: Sept. 3, vs. Colorado (in Denver); Sept. 24, at Minnesota; Oct. 1, vs. Texas-San Antonio