It's got no name, this football-only alliance of Conference USA and the Mountain West Conference. It's supposedly been in the planning stages for over a year, but nobody involved has a clue to any actual details of how the thing's going to work. And once the Big East finishes acting -- maybe as early as today, maybe months down the line -- then this thing, this Super Galactic All-Encompassing Of The Great And Near Great Mediocrities of College Football*, may no longer even exist.
The word first leaked about the Intergalactic Planetary Conference earlier during the college football season, when the rumors and truths and allegations started flying about the Aggies
going not going going not going going to the SEC resurfaced. And then the Big East started collapsing. Like that the great conference raids, which appeared to have ended last college football season, were back on. And with that, the talk of an alliance between C-USA and the Mountain West began to surface.
And as things fell apart, as TCU prepared to depart the Mountain West for the Big East only to back out on the Big East and join the Big XII -- now with ten teams until someone figures out what's actually going to happen with Missouri (and Oklahoma and Oklahoma State) -- when Pittsburgh and Syracuse split the Big East for the ACC, the mediocre conferences (now including the Big East) sought ways to remain relevant as the rumored raids begin to center on them.
The school at play, the big school at play, is Boise State. One of the best college football teams in the country, and the one with absolutely no way to play for the BCS title because of its inability to find a BCS conference to welcome it, is suddenly the school all the conferences want in order to insure it become a BCS conference.
With the Big East soon to be down to six football schools, it was looking at losing its automatic qualifying status for a BCS bowl. So they started talking to Boise State. And to Air Force. And to Navy. And to UCF. And, the rumors said, to Houston and SMU. And with the Big East setting a conference meeting for Monday, the other conferences hit the panic button.
Enter the super alliance between C-USA and Mountain West.
The commissioners of the two conferences held a joint teleconference on Friday evening, starting at 5:30 p.m. Houston time. Almost nothing concrete came out of the conference, which lasted nearly an hour, draining the batteries of many a reporter's smart phones. It's football-only. It might start in 2012. Or it might start in 2013. They should have a schedule for 2012 figured out in 90 days. Or not. They need special legislative action for the two conferences to hold a title game. No, they haven't started down the road toward getting that special legislative action. C-USA teams may play as one division next year, with the first place team playing for the SUPER ALLIANCE championship against the MWC champ. Or not.
We were told that all 22 schools involved signed off on the deal. That includes Boise State, Air Force, UCF, SMU and Houston. We were told by the C-USA commissioner that UCF had met with the Big East on Friday. We were told by C-USA (and by implication, the Super Duper Mega Alliance) that each school, specifically UCF, was free to do as they please: If they think there's a better situation somewhere, then C-USA won't stand in their way. (The same was said by the MWC commissioner in regards to Boise State and Air Force.)
During this time, throughout all of Friday, the stories about the new Big East were flying around the internets. And remarkably, they were all mostly in agreement. Boise State and Air Force (along with Navy, a non-super-alliance member) would be joining the Big East as football-only members while UCF, Houston and SMU would be joining the Big East as full members, playing in every sport.
And while the mega-conference brags of having college football stretching across five time zones, the important pieces, those member schools that would keep it relevant, are on the verge of fleeing for the Big East and its automatic qualifying status in the BCS.
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The only schools confirmed as having actually met/talked with the Big East are Boise State, Air Force and UCF. There were no specific questions asked in the teleconference about UH and SMU -- the only reporter from the Houston area who could get into the phone queue for a question decided that asking about television contracts was the most important topic.
But late on Friday night, Houston AD Mack Rhoades finally issued a statement by e-mail. And the statement was the classic non-denial denial. Refusing to admit to any discussions with anybody about anything, instead stating: "We are aware of the growing speculation regarding conference realignment and do not feel it would be appropriate to comment on the possible intentions of another league. We are flattered to be mentioned as an athletics program of national importance and we are grateful for our strong traditions and the dedication of our fans, alumni, staff and student-athletes."
So that's how things stand. As of Monday morning. There's a new Goliath Conference ready to roll. Or not. The Big East might be expanding. Or not. All in all, just another weekend in college football.
*Boise State excepted. And UCF. And Houston.