Craig Thompson was the Mountain West Conference's first employee when he was named Commissioner on Oct. 15, 1998. Ever since, Thompson has navigated the Conference through the ever-changing landscape of intercollegiate athletics. As the league enters its 16th season of competition in 2014-15, Thompson continues to create and improve the opportunities for Mountain West institutions and student-athletes to be successful both academically and athletically.
Since the Mountain West opened its doors on January 4, 1999, Thompson has been committed to excellence in intercollegiate athletics, while promoting the academic missions of its member institutions. Progressive in its approach, the MW has flourished under the guidance of Commissioner Thompson and continues to cultivate opportunities for student-athletes to compete at the highest level, while fostering academic achievement and sportsmanship. He has been instrumental in negotiating nearly $300 million in television revenue and has been an innovator in the postseason bowl structure as MW teams have participated in five inaugural bowl games.
As conference realignment spread throughout the collegiate landscape over the past few years, Thompson positioned the Mountain West for the future with the additions of Fresno State and the University of Nevada on July 1, 2012, and San José State University and Utah State University on July 1, 2013. The University of Hawai‘i also joined the league as a football-only member on July 1, 2012.
His leadership and vision have helped the conference enhance its television revenue and exposure through revolutionary agreements with CBS Sports Network, Comcast and ESPN, including becoming the first major collegiate athletic conference to launch a dedicated sports channel featuring exclusive programming around its athletic programs, as well as conference news. In the summer of 2006, the centerpiece of this historic relationship was realized with the launch of The Mtn. - MountainWest Sports Network - the first sports network dedicated to serving a single collegiate athletic conference.
Thompson has been instrumental in strengthening the position of the Mountain West in the current Bowl Championship Series (BCS) structure. In 2006, he spearheaded an effort that resulted in better access for the MW and more than doubled the annual BCS revenue on an annual basis for non-automatic-qualifying conferences. The MW has been steadfast in its efforts to find a way to make the collegiate postseason football system fair for all universities.
Through its first 15 years of competition, the Mountain West has participated in 62 bowl games, amassing a 35-27 (.565) all-time record in those contests. Over the last 10 seasons, the MW has captured the Bowl Challenge Cup four times and owns the second-best win percentage in bowl games among the 10 FBS conferences with a 28-19 mark (.595). The MW claimed the 2010, 2009 and 2007 Challenge Cups after finishing each of the three postseasons with 4-1 (.800) records. The league earned its first Cup after registering a 2-1 mark in bowl competition during the 2004 season. The Mountain West is the only conference to win the Bowl Challenge Cup four times since the award's inception in 2002.
Prior to his current role, Thompson served as the commissioner of the Sun Belt Conference for nearly eight years and as the only commissioner of the American South Conference prior to the merger of the two leagues in 1991.
During his eight years at the Sun Belt, he spent the majority of his time addressing national trends and challenges in intercollegiate athletics, television exposure, issues relating to conference membership and promoting corporate involvement. In 1997-98, the Sun Belt instituted a comprehensive sportsmanship policy, which earned Thompson designation as a 1998 Sports Ethics Fellow by the Institute for International Sport. Under Thompson's leadership, the Sun Belt was active in expansion as it continued to strengthen its posture nationally, adding Florida International University and the University of Denver.
Thompson is an integral part of the national landscape in intercollegiate athletics, holding many prestigious NCAA posts. He is currently on the NCAA Football Board of Directors and a member of the BCS administration. Thompson also is a member of the College Football Officiating Board of Managers, LLC, and a consultant for the Task Force on Commercial Activity in Intercollegiate Athletics. He also has served on the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Committee (1995-2000) and was appointed Chair of the committee in July 1999, completing his term September 1, 2000.
Over the tenure of his career, Thompson has been a member of the Executive Committee and the Director's Cup Committee of the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA), as well as the governing NCAA Council and various Council subcommittees. He has also played a prominent role in hosting numerous men's and women's NCAA postseason basketball tournaments in St. Louis, Atlanta, New Orleans and Denver.
Prior to its merger with the Sun Belt, Thompson served as the first and only commissioner of the American South Conference, which boasted an NCAA national champion in women's basketball during its first year. The American South also gained immediate national cable television exposure on ESPN and sent numerous teams into NCAA postseason play during the conference's four-year history.
Preceding his move to commissioner, Thompson served four years as the Director of Communications for the Metro Conference in Atlanta. While at the Metro, he directed the communications operations and administered conference championship events. Thompson originated the Metro Conference Sportswriters and Broadcasters Association, began a weekly radio program with over 300 affiliate stations, and originated a weekly satellite video program involving all Metro institutions. He also took on administrative duties such as coordination of officials, scheduling of tournament and regular-season play, and handling of legislative rules interpretations.
Thompson graduated from the University of Minnesota with an undergraduate degree in journalism. Following graduation, he spent two years as assistant sports information director at Kansas State University, earning numerous CoSIDA publication awards. He then spent three years as director of public relations and promotions for the NBA's Kansas City Kings.
Thompson and his wife, Carla, have a son (Ted) and a daughter (Emma).