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December 31, 2012

Thompson: MW and SDSU have spoken, but no deal yet

With the official news that Boise State will be staying in the Mountain West instead of joining the Big East as a football-only member and the Big West in every other sport, MW commissioner Craig Thompson confirmed that he has spoken with San Diego State athletic director Jim Sterk about the possibility of SDSU staying in the conference.

But anyone thinking the Aztecs' return to the Mountain West is a done deal better hit the pause button.

"We haven't even gotten to that point," Thompson said. "I've talked to Jim Sterk several times in the last 15 hours. I wouldn't say that welcoming anybody at this point is something."

As for the chances of that happening?

"I wouldn't speculate one way or the other."

In addition to SDSU, Thompson says he's spoken with three to five schools with "various degrees and depth" in the west over the last 24 hours about joining the Mountain West. The conference has yet to decide if it wants to stay at 11 institutions or expand to 12 or maybe even 14 in the long-term, but according to Thompson, the conference will soon decide if it will be an 11 or 12-team league for next football season, a decision that could be made by the end of January.

In fact, the conference had a 10-team football schedule finalized and ready to send out, but had to tear it up when an agreement was reached with Boise State to return.

"If we're going to have 12, that decision needs to be made here in a very short timeframe," Thompson said. "We have had and will continue to have conversations with a number of institutions. I don't know if I can say today that on August 1 we will be an 11-team conference."

As recently as Christmas Day, Thompson said that he hadn't had any personal contact with SDSU, but that "others representing the Mountain West have been in conversation with them." Throughout the whole conference realignment process, Sterk and school officials have remained steadfast in their move to the Big East/Big West, but Boise State's return to the MW may force the Aztecs' hand.

"It's just a matter of timing and certainly the stage and development of their interest," Thompson said about the conversations with SDSU. "The last 15-20 days we've re-negotiated our TV contract and worked out an agreement arrangement with Boise State. That's where it is in that stage of conversation (with SDSU)."

CBS Sports remains the primary rights holder and TV partner of the Mountain West, but the two parties agreed last week to restructure their TV deal, and there will be several changes. The MW will now be able to package games and sell them, and Thompson says there are two other networks they will approach to sell those packages to.

There will also be a "bonus system" for each team depending on how many appearances they make on national television. The amount of bonus money per game ($300 thousand for appearing on ESPN, ESPN2, CBS, NBC, ABC or Fox, plus an additional $200 thousand if the game is on a Saturday) will be the same for every member school.

There are rumors that Brigham Young might be the choice for the 12th western team to join the Mountain West before SDSU. Thompson said while there has been a "feeling-out process" between the conference and BYU, no formal discussions have taken place.


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