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WSU getting to know the Mountain West

A commissioner makes her pitch.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 02 UC Davis at San Diego State Photo by Tom Walko/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Good morning Coug fans, and welcome to the start of the college football season. We’ve waited a long time, and it’s finally here: seven FBS games, including Navy and Notre Dame in Ireland and no. 6 USC, featuring a Heisman Trophy winner and potential no. 1 NFL draft pick Caleb Williams, in a primetime kickoff. Before I get too far, I better go hit the record button on ESPN to make sure I watch today’s best team, despite them abandoning the Pac-12.

OK, no onto the rest of today’s post. This week.....wait, USC isn’t the primetime game on ESPN tonight? Instead, I’ll be recording a riveting matchup between UMass and New Mexico State? And USC is on the Pac-12 Network?

That’s so Pac-12.

In what might be even more fitting, the game features a team from the Mountain West, the biggest and baddest conference out west all of a sudden.

And speaking of the Mountain West, its commissioner, Gloria Nevarez (a former Pac-12 administrator), and University of New Mexico President Garnett Stokes visited Pullman on Thursday to make their pitch to WSU President Kirk Schulz on why WSU should join their conference.

From WSU:

Commissioner Nevarez described the member schools of the conference as being gritty, resilient, strivers, and trailblazers. She also touted the conference’s focus on first-generation college students and the league’s leadership position in diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Commission Nevarez noted that there was strong support among Mountain West Conference presidents and athletic directors for the idea of WSU joining the league, saying that the current membership “would welcome WSU with open arms.”

That’s some pretty high-level stuff, almost boilerplate language.

You’ll recall WSU’s Athletics Advisory Committee outlined a set of criteria it will use to evaluate the future of athletics at WSU:

  • University visibility
  • Competitiveness
  • Student-athlete experience
  • Travel
  • Stability
  • Financial sustainability

The Mountain West checks the travel box, obviously. The rest are unclear without more details from the meeting this week. As far as financial sustainability? Unless WSU strikes oil on the Palouse, I don’t see a way for the university to continue to invest like a Power 5 athletic department—as Schulz has promised—with a move to the Mountain West.

But being in a conference is obviously better then not being in a conference, and right now WSU has no conference affiliation after this school year. The other option apparently on the table is to join the American Athletic Conference, but the travel is bad, which presumably would diminish the student-athlete experience.

And with Cal and Stanford doing some serious flirting with the ACC, things aren’t looking good for a rebuilt Pac-whatever.

Nevarez and Stokes are the first to invite WSU to the dance floor. Should WSU dance?

By the way, there are three Mountain West teams in action today, if you want an early look at WSU’s potential future conference mates: