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Mountain West won't expand

by Todd Dvorak
| June 8, 2010 9:00 PM

The presidents of the Mountain West Conference decided Monday not to expand the nine-team league at this time.

Commissioner Craig Thompson said the decision to hold off on expansion is tied to the shake-ups and shifting landscape in some of the nation's bigger conferences. Officials from the Big Ten, Pac-10 and Big 12 are considering adding schools or reorganizing.

Thompson said the decision is not final, and that the board may reconsider once the dust settles in the other conferences.

"Due to the uncertainty in the intercollegiate landscape, the board did not make a decision to expand at the present time," Thompson said at the end of the board's annual meeting in Jackson, Wyo. "The Mountain West will continue to monitor developments ... and prepare for potential scenarios."

Boise State officials and fans had hoped to join the Mountain West and leave the Western Athletic Conference, a league the Broncos have dominated for a decade in football. Moving to the Mountain West could have generated more revenue for the athletic department, increased athletic competition in football, basketball and other sports and given the Broncos a clearer path to college football's biggest stage, the Bowl Championship Series.

The Mountain West includes Brigham Young, Utah and TCU, which the Broncos beat in the Fiesta Bowl in January.

Boise State president Bob Kustra said the decision by Mountain West officials is understandable.

"The most appropriate action at this juncture is to wait and see how the variables unfold," Kustra said in a statement. "The opportunity has not been lost."

Boise State has until July 1 to notify the WAC of any intentions to leave the conference and begin playing elsewhere in 2011. Thompson said he intended to schedule a conference call with the nine Mountain West presidents before that deadline.

"I don't think the door is closed," he said. "The interest the board had in particular in Boise State coming into the meeting probably hasn't changed going out of the meeting."

WAC commissioner Karl Benson figured Boise State was bound to bolt for the Mountain West. So much so that as the board of directors and athletic directors assembled in Las Vegas for the conference's annual meeting this week, they discussed contingency plans.

The conference didn't want to be caught off guard.

"I think everyone was anticipating and expecting it," Benson said in a conference call Monday night. "All the signals out there were pointing in the direction that any invitation would come today. ... This is an unbelievably volatile period. The poker playing that is going on I think is unprecedented.

"Regardless of what changes might occur, we are poised to move forward either with our existing membership or with any membership changes that may occur."

Benson said there wasn't any bitterness toward Boise State officials at the meeting, the relationship remaining quite cordial.

The WAC is keeping its options open, too, scouring for schools. Benson said there are five or six candidates from the Football Championship Series the conference is keeping an eye on.

However, Benson wouldn't elaborate on which schools might potentially be in the mix.

"Regardless of what the Mountain West might do, or Boise State might do, the WAC is going to continue to be a credible and recognizable conference," Benson said.

Bronco coach Chris Petersen, who has compiled a 49-4 record and won three WAC titles in four years, said the decision doesn't change anything about his plans for next season.

"We have a very challenging non-conference and conference schedule ahead of us and we are not planning to change our goals because of today's decision," he said.

AP sports writer Pat Graham contributed to this story.

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