The Mountain West is sending five men’s basketball teams to the NCAA Tournament. It’s a cool place to be and only nine schools have the honor. And nine is an awkward number in today’s world of college athletics. Nobody wants nine.
With that in mind, I sent an e-mail last week to MWC commissioner Craig Thompson, who spent two years in the media relations department at Kansas State way back when. I wondered about the potential of Mountain West expansion in the coming years and I had a special interest in Wichita State, the school in my backyard.
Not literally. But WSU is close.
My e-mail was finely crafted, with just the proper punctuation. It was to the point and friendly. I apologized for sending it during the middle of the MWC tournament in Las Vegas, explaining that my timing has never been good. I expressed to Thompson that I would be happy to talk to him via phone, or that he could choose to e-mail with a reply to my question, which was this:
Given all that is happening with re-alignment in college athletics, and what looks like the impending departure of Creighton to the new Big East, I’m curious about what options might be out there for Wichita State. Of course, WSU does not have football. But I’m curious about whether a conference such as the Mountain West, which currently has nine members, would entertain the possibility of adding a 10th school and, in this case, one that does not have football,”
I went on to congratulation Thompson for having another outstanding season of MWC basketball. Then I waited to see if I could get a response. I figured it was about 50-50, considering how busy he surely.
Two days ago, I received an e-mail from Thompson. It arrived in the afternoon and at first I didn’t recognize Thompson’s name. I’m dense that way. When my brain finally started to function, though, I was eager to see what he had to say.
That he had responded was encouraging. What if, I told myself, he had something really interesting to say. Perhaps even newsworthy.
Well, after all of his build-up, I’m sorry to disappoint you. And I’m sorry I was disappointed.
Thompson, in essence, said nothing.
There is no consideration for further expansion at this time. Thanks.
That was the whole of Thompson’s response. Hey, at least he thanked me.
The Mountain West’s nine members are: Boise State, Colorado State, UNLV, San Diego State, New Mexico, Nevada, Wyoming, Fresno State and Air Force. It’s a football-first conference that happens to be a better basketball league at this point.
Wichita State, without a football program, isn’t exactly Lindsay Vonn in Tiger Woods’ eyes. The Shockers have a black hole.
Not that WSU is one bit interested in leaving the Missouri Valley Conference, where the Shockers have lived for nearly 70 years. It’s been a mostly-good living situation. But with one foot out the door for Creighton, which could any day now officially join the new Big East, it’s possible that WSU could entertain a better offer.
I suppose. Although I think it’s a stretch.
I like the Valley. I think WSU belongs in the Valley. I think WSU owes it to the Valley to help the conference come up with a viable 10th member to replace Creighton, should the Bluejays depart.
But there is an appeal to the Mountain West. That’s a really good basketball conference and it’s not a total geographical mismatch for Wichita State.
That said, the Shockers would be playing every conference road game in a later – or is it earlier? – time zone. Later here, earlier there. I guess that’s the best way to put it. Would Shocker fans like the notion of waiting for a 9 p.m. tip at Fresno and San Diego? Or 8 p.m. everywhere else?
If the door to the Mountain West were open, I doubt that would be something to cause it to close for WSU. Still, it’s not ideal.
What about rivalries? WSU-New Mexico? WSU-Colorado State? No Wichita State-Creighton in that mix.
But Creighton looks like it’s leaving. The Shockers have to fill a void there. The Missouri Valley has to fill a void there. It’ll be a different conference without the Bluejays. And it won’t be as good, at least not for a while.
So if Wichita State were to look elsewhere – and I’m not saying it is – the Mountain West would make some sense.
With an 11-word e-mail, though, Craig Thompson pooh-poohed the possibility. The door to the Mountain West, he insists, is closed.