Conference USA and Mountain West are now talking about forming an alliance rather than merging, sources have told MercuryNews.com and CBSSports.com.
The two conferences announced in October that they planned to merge into one conference. Then last month they announced plans to dissolve both conferences and create a new one for legal reasons. Dissolving would allow them to nullify current television contracts and sign newer, more lucrative ones.
But recently C-USA and the MWC learned that dissolving the two conferences would result in the loss of “NCAA Tournament units.”
Teams earn about $250,000 for their conference for each round they advance in the NCAA tournament and that money is distributed to the conferences after a rolling six-year period. Dissolving the leagues would forfeit C-USA and the Mountain West millions of dollars.
According to Jon Wilner, the NCAA also told C-USA and the MWC that “it would award the merged league only one AQ berth to postseason events.” It goes without saying that the merged conference was expecting more than one automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament.
If the two conferences decide not to merge, their other option is to form an alliance which will aid television contracts and non-conference scheduling.
Conference USA currently has 12 football members, but four are set to join the Big East in 2013 (Houston, Memphis, SMU, and UCF). The Mountain West currently sits at ten members, but Boise State and San Diego State also depart for the Big East next year.
That leaves the C-USA/MWC league with 16 members if they merge and two eight-team conferences if they simply choose to form an alliance.