Mountain West in discussions with Gonzaga to join league
By JOHN MARSHALL
Mar. 01, 2018
The Mountain West Conference could get a big addition, possibly next season.
Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson said he has spoken with six university presidents or athletic directors since August about joining the conference.
The only school Thompson identified was Gonzaga, one of the nation's top mid-major programs. Thompson said Gonzaga athletic director Mike Roth reached out to him last fall and that he's spoken with coach Mark Few about the possibility of the Zags leaving the West Coast Conference for the MWC.
The talks were first reported by the San Diego Union-Tribune.
"Exploratory. I think that's the best description," Thompson said Wednesday night. "If there's something that helps us or makes us grow stronger, why wouldn't we look into it a little bit? We haven't gotten real detailed or in depth in any conversations. We're just trying to understand what are you looking for as a university and they're asking what are your future goals and ambitions as a conference."
Gonzaga has dominated the WCC, winning 17 regular-season championships and 14 tournament titles since Few became coach in 1999. The Zags reached the NCAA title game a year ago, losing to North Carolina.
A move to a larger conference would boost the competition Gonzaga faces during the conference season and help with seeding in the NCAA Tournament. No. 11 Wichita State made a similar move last year, leaving the Missouri Valley Conference for the American Athletic Conference.
Adding the Zags would be a huge boost to the Mountain West as well.
Once one of the nation's top basketball conferences, the Mountain West has weakened some through realignments and traditional powers like UNLV, New Mexico and San Diego State falling off recently.
The Mountain West at one point was the highest-rated conference in the nation and got five teams through to the NCAA Tournament. The conference was a one-bid league each of the past two seasons and could be again this year unless Boise State finds a way to get in.
"We've fallen a little short the past couple years with just one bid, but historically over 19 years we've been a multi-bid league," Thompson said. "We play Gonzaga in sports other than basketball, but it's Western-based, it's in a part of the country geographically that we look into. And this is a really easy one to explore because we only have 11 basketball schools."