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MOUNTAIN WEST FOOTBALL

Commissioner Craig Thompson says Mountain West has no current plans to expand

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Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson

Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson said Wednesday the conference's athletic directors and presidents have decided not to expand at this time.

LARAMIE – Dana Dimel won’t be back at War Memorial Stadium anytime soon.

Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson said the conference’s athletic directors and presidents met Tuesday night and decided not to pursue any expansion candidates at this time.

On Thursday, the American Athletic Conference – after a failed attempt to raid the MWC by adding Air Force, Boise State, Colorado State and San Diego State – announced the additions of Alabama-Birmingham, Charlotte, Florida Atlantic, North Texas, Rice and Texas-San Antonio from Conference USA.

That leaves Texas-El Paso, which is off to a 6-1 start this season under Dimel, the former Wyoming head coach, and the other remaining members of Conference USA in a tough spot.

North Texas, Rice, UTSA and UTEP contacted the MWC about joining the conference, according to a report by the Action Network. The MWC decided to stay with the current 12-school football lineup instead of expanding its footprint into the fertile Texas recruiting grounds.

“We’ve very thoroughly discussed all kinds of options,” Thompson said during his session at the MWC media day event Wednesday. “Our position right now is we’re very comfortable with 12 football-playing institutions and we’re going to stand pat.

“Currently, we’re the No. 1 Group of Five ranked conference and have been many times in the past and hope to be many times to come. So we like our makeup and (are) very interested in building and growing those 12 brands.”

This round of realignment started when Oklahoma and Texas decided to leave the Big 12 for the SEC. The Big 12 responded by adding Cincinnati, Houston and UCF from the AAC and independent BYU to get to 12 teams.

Boise State and SDSU decided waiting for a Power 5 invitation in the MWC was a better situation than making a lateral move to the weakened AAC. Air Force and CSU eventually made the same decision, which keeps the Cowboys’ Front Range rivalries alive.

“Everyone is trying to get to that spot where they feel the most comfortable,” Thompson said. “Certainly our institutions had explorations in places other than the Mountain West Conference. That’s just the nature of college athletics in 2021.”

Conference USA, which will be down to eight members when the six teams leave for the AAC, is obviously in the market to expand.

There are reports that the Sun Belt might be interested in taking current Conference USA members Marshall, Old Dominion and Southern Miss.

With Hawaii being a football-only member it would make sense for the MWC to add a school like Gonzaga to get the conference to 12 in basketball.

“I’m not saying we will never expand,” Thompson said. “We’ve just opted at this time to stay put at 12 institutions.”

Follow UW beat writer Ryan Thorburn on Twitter @By_RyanThorburn

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