Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2011 | 10:52 p.m.
The next step for the Mountain West Conference is uncertain, but behind closed doors it’s been under way, just waiting for this day. And no matter what happens, UNLV Athletic Director Jim Livengood is confident that the Rebel programs will persevere.
And they’ll also be in one piece.
“We’re not going to split our programs up, that doesn’t make any sense,” Livengood said Wednesday, hours after Boise State and San Diego State’s departures for the Big East became official. “… To me, that absolutely is selling a number of your programs down the drain.”
Boise State and San Diego State are leaving the Mountain West for the Big East in football only. Their other sports will head to different destinations — reportedly the Big West for San Diego State and the WAC, again, for Boise State.
As for the future of UNLV and what remains of the Mountain West, the groundwork has been put in place over the past few months.
“There’s a lot of conversations having already gone on,” Livengood said. “As far as the two conferences, Conference USA and the Mountain West together, or other potential schools as far as expansion. So there’s a lot of conversations. There’s no timeline on it. Part of it had to be after today happened. … I think we’ll see things ratchet up pretty fast now.”
A C-USA-Mountain West merger in all sports, instead of just football, has been floated as a possibility in the last 48 hours, and it makes a lot of sense. The two conferences already have a working relationship and an investment in the other’s success.
Of course, poaching a couple of schools — most likely from the WAC — may be a more practical fix. Air Force indicated on Wednesday that it would stay in the Mountain West, so the conference may only need a couple of schools to remain viable. Plus, keeping the additions limited to the west coast help keep the non-revenue sports’ travel budgets from ballooning.
To hear it from Livengood, the first option seems the most likely.
“(Our focus is) doing the very best job we can for the Rebels, and then for the Mountain West and working with Conference USA,” he said. “I’m very optimistic that we’re going to have some great things happen.”
Conference realignment is an increasingly bizarre and surreal series of moves that has landed 10 teams in the Big 12 and 12 teams in the Big Ten.
The newest twist has San Diego State competing in a league whose headquarters are just more than 3,000 miles from campus.
When Livengood sits back to look at all that’s happened, he still can’t get his head around it.
“It is more than crazy. It doesn’t make any sense,” Livengood said. “How you’re going to convince your fans, your recruits and all those groups; it makes no sense to play across the continental United States like that. But that’s their issue. I wish them luck, have fun, go to it.
“That’s not for us.”