THIS IS THE MOUNTAIN WEST
From its inception in 1999, the Mountain West has been committed to excellence in intercollegiate athletics, while promoting the academic missions of its member institutions. Progressive in its approach, the MW continues to cultivate opportunities for student-athletes to compete at the highest level, while fostering academic achievement and sportsmanship. Now in its 14th year, the MW has been assertive in its involvement with the NCAA governance structure and has taken a leadership role in the overall administration of intercollegiate athletics.
The Mountain West has marked several achievements over its first 13 years of existence, most notably becoming the first to establish a sports television network dedicated solely to an intercollegiate athletic conference (The Mtn.). The Mountain West also was the first to experiment with the coaches' challenge in the college football instant replay system, and was the first non-automatic-qualifying BCS conference to participate in four BCS bowl games, winning three. Additionally, the Mountain West was the first conference to have a member institution with No. 1 overall picks in both the NFL and NBA drafts in the same year (Utah's Alex Smith and Andrew Bogut, respectively in 2005). With San Diego State's Stephen Strasburg claiming the No. 1 pick in the 2009 MLB Draft, the Mountain West is one of two conferences to have the No. 1 selection in each of the NFL, NBA and MLB drafts since the MW was founded in 1999. In 2011-12, the Mountain West was among the first conferences to implement a league-wide state-of-the art basketball instant replay system.
The Mountain West is noted for its geographic diversity. Some of the most beautiful terrain and landscapes in the nation can be found within Mountain West boundaries, including the majestic Rocky Mountain range, which borders four MW institutions (Air Force, Boise State, Colorado State and New Mexico). The high plains of Wyoming (elevation 7,220 feet - the highest Division I campus in the nation) contrast with the desert cities of Las Vegas and Reno, home to UNLV and Nevada, while Fresno State and San Diego State add a West coast influence with their locations in Central and Southern California. The inclusion of the Hawai‘i football program extends the Mountain West footprint to the beautiful islands in the Pacific Ocean.
The Mountain West was conceived on May 26, 1998, when the presidents of eight institutions - Air Force, BYU, Colorado State, New Mexico, San Diego State, UNLV, Utah and Wyoming - decided to form a new NCAA Division I-A intercollegiate athletic conference. The split from a former 16-team conference re-established continuity and stability among the membership within the new league and signaled the continuation of its tradition-rich, long-standing athletic rivalries. Three of the MW's eight original members have been conference rivals since the 1960s (New Mexico, Wyoming and Colorado State), while San Diego State (1978) and Air Force (1980) were longtime members as well. UNLV and TCU entered the fold in 1996 and the Rebels continued as one of the original eight institutions that formed the MW in 1999. TCU re-joined the group with its first year of competition in the Mountain West in 2005-06. With conference realignment sweeping the nation in recent years, the MW has been proactive in addressing membership changes. Boise State University joined the Mountain West in 2011-12, followed by Fresno State and the University of Nevada on July 1, 2012. Also on July 1, 2012, the University of Hawai‘i became a football-only member of the Conference. On May 4, 2012, the Mountain West announced the additions of San Jose State University and Utah State University as full-time members effective July 1, 2013.
When the Mountain West officially began operations on July 1, 1999, the new league had in place a seven-year contract with ESPN, giving the broadcaster exclusive national television rights to MW football and men's basketball, and three-year agreements to send the league's football champion to the Liberty Bowl and a second team to the Las Vegas Bowl. Commissioner Craig Thompson also arranged a third bowl tie-in each of the first three seasons (1999 Motor City, 2000 Silicon Valley, 2001 New Orleans) before securing a four-year deal with the Emerald Bowl in San Francisco in 2002. Entering the 2012 season, the MW has four contracted bowl affiliations - the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas, San Diego Country Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl, Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl and Gildan New Mexico Bowl.
An innovator in the postseason bowl structure, the MW engineered many "firsts," as league teams have participated in five inaugural bowl games (2000 Silicon Valley, 2001 New Orleans, 2002 San Francisco (Emerald), 2005 Poinsettia, 2006 New Mexico), as well as placing the first non-automatic-qualifying BCS team into a BCS bowl game with Utah's appearance in the 2005 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.
2011-12 IN REVIEW
From the gridiron to the diamond, Mountain West teams enjoyed an outstanding year in 2011-12. The MW sent a record five football teams to bowl games for the fifth consecutive year and had two teams ranked in the final BCS Standings and USA Today/ESPN Coaches polls for the fourth straight season. League newcomer Boise State enjoyed a successful inaugural MW campaign, closing out the 2011 season ranked sixth in the Coaches' poll and eighth in the Associated Press poll.
For the second time in three years, the Mountain West was represented by four men's basketball teams in the NCAA tournament, marking the 12th time in the last 13 years the Conference has sent multiple teams to the Big Dance. Regular season co-champion New Mexico captured the MW Tournament title to earn the league's automatic bid, while MW regular-season co-champion San Diego State was joined by Colorado State and UNLV in receiving at-large invitations. The 2011-12 season marked the third straight year the Mountain West had at least two teams ranked in the final AP poll and one in the Coaches' poll. Overall, the league had three different teams ranked in the national top 25 polls at some point during the season for the third straight year.
San Diego State won both the MW women's basketball regular-season and tournament titles to earn the league's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, marking the Aztecs' third trip to the Big Dance in the last four seasons. UNLV, making its first postseason appearance since 2006, advanced to the Women's National Invitation Tournament.
Mountain West regular-season and tournament champion Colorado State made its 17th consecutive appearance in the NCAA women's volleyball tournament and advanced to the second round for the fifth straight year. The Rams finished the season with a national ranking for the second straight year, coming in at No. 25 in the final AVCA poll. Volleyball also re-set the league's average attendance record for the second straight year as the eight MW teams averaged 1,036 fans per match in 2012.
In women's soccer, New Mexico advanced to the NCAA tournament for the second straight year after clinching both the MW regular-season and tournament crowns. Lobo midfielder Jael Fanning joined New Mexico volleyball outside hitter Kelly Williamson in receiving NCAA Postgraduate Scholarships.
The New Mexico men's and women's cross country teams swept the MW crowns for the third consecutive year and went on to earn spots in the NCAA Championships. The Lobo women registered their second consecutive top 10 performance with a ninth-place finish at the NCAA Championships, while the Lobo men finished in 31st place.
Two MW student-athletes won national titles at the 2012 NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships as New Mexico's Kendall Spencer and TCU's Whitney Gipson won the men's and women's long jump events, respectively.
The Mountain West registered a record nine All-American performances at the NCAA Women's Swimming and Diving Championships, with student-athletes from Boise State, New Mexico, San Diego State, TCU, UNLV and Wyoming representing the league.
For the 13th consecutive season, the Mountain West sent at least four men's golf teams to the NCAA Tournament. This marked the third time in four years the MW was represented by five teams as San Diego State earned the league's automatic bid and was joined by Colorado State, New Mexico, TCU and UNLV with at-large invitations. The Aztecs and Horned Frogs qualified for the 2012 NCAA Finals, the ninth time in league history multiple teams advanced. San Diego State advanced to match play and finished fifth as a team, marking the highest finish for a MW squad since three teams placed in the top eight at the 2005 NCAA Finals. TCU's Julien Brun tied for second place at the NCAA Finals, which is the highest individual finish for a MW golfer since UNLV's Ryan Moore captured medalist honors in 2004.
For the third consecutive year, at least four MW women's golf teams received NCAA regional bids, marking the ninth straight year the Mountain West has sent at least three teams to the postseason. TCU earned the league's automatic berth and was joined in postseason play by New Mexico, San Diego State and UNLV.
The Boise State men's and TCU women's teams earned the league's automatic bids and represented the MW at the 2012 NCAA Tennis Championships. In addition, the league qualified six individuals for postseason single/doubles competition.
In softball, MW champion San Diego State earned the league's automatic bid and made its fifth consecutive appearance in the NCAA Championship, advancing to the regional finals for the second straight year
TCU's Whitney Gipson completed a 2012 sweep of the national women's long jump titles, also earning the crown at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. Joining Gipson atop the awards podium were Boise State's Kurt Felix and San Diego State's Whitney Ashley, who were crowned national champions in the men's decathlon and women's discus, respectively.
In baseball, the MW had regular-season co-champions for the first time in the league's 13-year history as New Mexico and TCU shared the crown. The Lobos won their second straight MW tournament title and earned the league's automatic bid for their third consecutive appearance in the NCAA Baseball Championship. TCU received an at-large invitation and made its ninth straight trip to the NCAA tournament, advancing to the Super Regionals for the third time in four years. The 2012 season marked the fourth straight year the Mountain West sent multiple teams to the NCAA Baseball Championship.
From the outset, the MW's member institutions have been committed to creating strong academic relationships, as well as athletic competition. To that end, the chief academic officers of each institution have explored academic exchange programs, library crossovers and shared research. In addition, the faculty athletics representatives routinely provide academic assistance and test-taking services for student-athletes visiting from fellow member institutions for competition.
The Mountain West provides a first-class athletic and academic experience for more than 7,000 student-athletes each year. Over the past 13 years, 38 Mountain West student-athletes have earned NCAA Postgraduate Scholarships, and since the league's inception in 1999, an additional 26 student-athletes have been named MW Scholar-Athlete of the Year and awarded league-sponsored postgraduate scholarships. Three student-athletes have earned distinction as Rhodes Scholars (Jessica Mellinger, Wyoming and Delavane Diaz and Brittany Morreale, Air Force).
Conference student-athletes are also given a voice regarding pertinent issues within the MW and NCAA governance structure through representation on the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC). The Mountain West SAAC consists of 19 representatives; two student-athletes from each full member institution and one faculty athletics representative. The committee reviews and reacts to legislation and to other topics referred by the Conference constituent groups or committees related to the student-athlete experience.
The MW has produced 762 All-America selections among its 18 sponsored sports (men's swimming was discontinued as a conference sport following the 2010-11 season) in the last 13 years, including a league-record 83 All-America honorees in 2010-11. A total of 125 MW student-athletes have also earned Academic All-America accolades in that span. The Mountain West has sent at least 28 teams to NCAA postseason events in each of the past 13 years, capturing three team national championships in men's cross country and producing 32 individual national champions in the sports of men's golf, men's cross country, and men's and women's indoor track & field and outdoor track & field.
Mountain West members have participated in 51 bowl games under the league umbrella, including four appearances in BCS games. The MW has earned 61 postseason bids in men's basketball, including 33 NCAA Tournament appearances and two NIT Final Four berths. MW women's basketball has tallied 57 postseason slots, including 31 NCAA bids, five Sweet 16 appearances and one Elite Eight berth since 2000. Wyoming won the MW's first WNIT championship in 2007 with a win over Wisconsin. In women's volleyball, the MW has had 34 NCAA bids with eight Sweet 16 berths and one Elite Eight appearance. Women's soccer has earned 26 NCAA bids since 1999, with BYU advancing to the Sweet 16 in 2000 and the Elite Eight in 2003. MW men's golf has had at least four representatives in each of the last 13 NCAA Golf Regionals, while women's golf has had at least three teams participate in NCAA Regionals 11 of the last 13 years.
Named a Sports Ethics Fellow by the Institute for International Sport in 1998, Commissioner Thompson has been a driving force for sportsmanship within intercollegiate athletics. As part of its continuing growth and development, the Mountain West implemented an extensive Sportsmanship Initiative, endorsed by both the MW Joint Council and MW Board of Directors. The program is made up of several elements, which are both practical and philosophical in nature. While the MW has significant penalties in place to deal with violations, the Sportsmanship Initiative is primarily promotional and educational in nature. The goal is to develop an environment that fosters appropriate behavior from all Conference constituencies.