This time, Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson had three weeks rather than three minutes to digest realignment news before he stepped on stage for MW football media days.
Not that it mattered.
Thompson has to wait just like everyone else for the realignment ripples to reach the Mountain West’s shores.
If opportunity arises for a MW school — like San Diego State — to move to, say, the Pac-12 or Big 12, there’s not much the commissioner can do about it.
“What could, would, should or can we do if an institution opts to leave the Mountain West conference?” Thompson said. “The answer is really nothing, except to explore how we would replace that member and does it make sense to replace that member.
“Many conferences right now are going through that same exercise. You expand because you have to out of necessity, survival if you will, or the value new members bring to you.”
There were moments Wednesday when Thompson was philosophic — “Man’s loyalty is as strong as his options” — but he was mostly pragmatic — “If someone has an opportunity to improve themselves, they will move on.”
Boise State, Colorado State, Fresno State and SDSU all have been mentioned in various scenarios as Mountain West teams that could be candidates for the Pac-12 or Big 12.
A compelling case was made earlier this week in the San Jose Mercury News that the Pac-12 shouldn’t just consider adding SDSU — but “needs” to add the Aztecs.
“We’re happy being here,” SDSU head coach Brady Hoke said as he sat in front of assembled conference media members. “The Mountain West is a great conference. There’s really good coaches. There’s really good schools.
“You look at the players that come out of the Mountain West, I think that’s awesome.”
Pressed on the matter, Hoke said SDSU would love the opportunity to play in the Pac-12.
“There’s a lot of things that are out of my hands, obviously. … It’s above my pay grade. We’ll see what happens.”
Thompson wouldn’t be bitter about it if the Aztecs finally got an opportunity to go elsewhere.
“I hope they don’t leave,” Thompson said. “They’re a great member to the league. And it’s a tremendous market for us.
“But I would say, ‘Congratulations. Thanks for the time, but you have a great opportunity.’ ”
There would be similar sentiments toward any other school.
Fresno State head coach Jeff Tedford’s association with the program dates back more than 40 years (he played there in 1981) and across three conferences — the Pacific Coast Athletic Association, the Western Athletic Conference and the Mountain West.
If there is to be another conference in Fresno State’s future, then the Bulldogs can’t sit back and wait for it to come to them.
“You’ve got to know that behind the scenes people are on the phone every day trying to position themselves to do something,” Tedford said. “You need to be proactive and be part of the conversation. You can’t bury your head in the sand and just think it’s going to happen. It’s not going to happen. … You have to align yourself in case something were to happen.”
So schools are scrambling, but it’s still hurry up and wait.
Just like last year.
There was nothing Thompson could do when news broke — a reporter told him in a hotel hallway moments before speaking to MW media — that Oklahoma and Texas were bolting the Big 12 for the SEC.
And he couldn’t do anything this year when UCLA and USC shocked the college sports world with word they were leaving the Pac-12 for the Big Ten.
“What are our options?” Thompson said. “Our options right now are we don’t have to do anything. We’re a solid 12-team league. We had our most successful year on the field and on the courts in probably a decade — four 10- or 11-win football teams, four teams in the men’s basketball tournament.”
What tack would the Mountain West take if it lost some members. It’s too soon to say.
“If we lost two institutions, hypothetically, we’d have to look long and hard at maybe just staying at 10 (schools),” said Thompson, noting there’s no desire to add members simply to stay at an even dozen.
He shakes his head at where this is all headed. The growing disparity between the haves and have-nots.
“It sure seems to be a race for revenue,” Thompson said. “We distributed a record $65 million (last year).
“Minnesota could be getting $90 million from the Big Ten. $90 million. One school that — it’s my alma mater, I can say what I want about them — would probably finish sixth or seventh in the Mountain West.”
Actually, it’s not as if this is anything new. Thompson noted that 67 of the 131 FBS schools have changed conferences since 2011.
Tedford was ready to set all the speculation aside.
“Can we just talk about third-and-5 and if we can make a first down,” he said with a smile.