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Mountain West torn between 8- and 9-game football slates

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A new-look, expanded Mountain West Conference begins wrestling with the details of becoming a 10-member league when its council opens annual meetings tomorrow in Phoenix.

Among the items on the agenda is whether to play a full nine-game round-robin football schedule in the future or open up nonconference opportunities by playing an eight-game slate.

Since 2005 both the MWC, where Hawaii becomes a football-only member in 2012, and the Western Athletic Conference, which UH departs, have played round-robin schedules, but only as eight- or nine-team leagues.

However, the addition of Boise State this year coupled with the arrival of UH, Fresno State and Nevada in 2012 and departures by Brigham Young, Utah and Texas Christian will make the MWC a 10-team circuit in 2012.

Plans have been for the MWC to play eight conferences games in 2012 and ’13, but beyond that is a matter for debate and vote. And there has been considerable back-channel debate, as some schools prefer to play wider nonconference schedules while others have trouble filling schedules or want the "integrity" of playing every conference member every year. How fair would it be, some suggest, if two teams finish in a tie for the championship and only one of them has played Boise State?

Wyoming and New Mexico say they prefer a nine-game schedule, while Colorado State and Air Force say they endorse an eight-game format.

The Air Force Academy is a major proponent of an eight-game conference slate, "… because we also have to schedule Army and Navy every year," athletic director Hans Mueh said. "A nine-game schedule would leave us only one nonconference scheduling opportunity and would probably eliminate the big-profile game against a BCS opponent, since we also have to have a home game every opening day for Parents Weekend at the Academy."

In 2011, for example, the Falcons are playing Army, Navy, Notre Dame, South Dakota and Tennessee State.

UH athletic director Jim Donovan said, for the time being, "we can go with either eight or nine," adding the Warriors have held off filling some slots for 2014 and beyond while they await the outcome of the MWC’s decision.

UH has some flexibility, with four nonconference opponents — Washington, Oregon State, Colorado and BYU — listed for 2014. A fifth game originally scheduled as a nonconference contest, Nevada-Las Vegas, becomes an MWC game.

Any action by the MWC Council would go to the Board of Directors, which is made up of member chief executive officers, for final vote in June.

 

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