Mountain West votes to eliminate divisions in football; Boise State receives $1M gift

·4 min read
Darin Oswald/doswald@idahostatesman.com

The Mountain West announced Friday that it will eliminate its two-division format in football beginning in 2023, and the teams with the highest conference winning percentages will meet in the annual championship game.

Eliminating the Mountain and West divisions is meant to ensure that the conference’s top two teams meet in the championship game and put the winner in better position to earn a bid to a New Year’s Six bowl game or the College Football Playoff — especially if the field expands. As it is now, division champions play for the title.

Mountain West athletic directors voted Thursday to approve the change in format, according to a spokesperson for the conference, and the board of directors gave its blessing Friday. A scheduling model and tiebreaking procedures for future seasons will be announced in the coming weeks.

“Our membership has been working on concepts since last summer, as part of our strategic planning for the future of the Mountain West,” Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson said in a statement. “A single-division approach provides maximum flexibility to adapt the conference schedule as the landscape continues to evolve, while also allowing member institutions to play each other more frequently.”

The Mountain West will continue with its existing Mountain and West divisions this season, and the winners of each division will meet in the championship game Dec 3.

The NCAA Division I Council opened the door for the elimination of divisions Wednesday after voting to relax rules pertaining to how conferences select championship game participants. The change was sparked by a proposal from the Pac-12 challenging the rule that conferences with at least 12 teams must have two divisions in order to hold a league title game.

Hours after the decision, the Pac-12 announced that the teams with the highest conference winning percentages would meet in its championship game this year. The ACC is also considering eliminating its divisions, and the Big 12’s plan to split into divisions was put on hold earlier this month as it awaited clarity on the NCAA’s ruling on the issue.

“The MW in consistently at or near the top of the non-autonomous Five rankings, and this move will further ensure that our champion is in play to be competing in the New Year’s Six, and opens the door to the College Football Playoff while adding value to our championship game,” Boise State Athletic Director Jeramiah Dickey said in a statement.

The Mountain West’s two divisions are: Mountain (Boise State, Air Force, Colorado State, New Mexico, Utah State and Wyoming) and West (Fresno State, Hawaii, Nevada, San Diego State, San Jose State and UNLV).

Utah State won the Mountain Division title last year before upsetting San Diego State to win its first conference championship in program history. Boise State won three straight Mountain Division titles between 2017 and 2019.

The 2020 season offered a glimpse of what the future may hold for the conference. After the season was initially canceled and then shortened because of COVID-19, the Mountain West temporarily suspended its divisions and pitted the teams with the highest conference winning percentages against one another in the championship game. San Jose State beat Boise State to win its first league title.

Basketball nets $1 million gift

Boise State has received its third $1 million gift through the Lyle Smith Society, the university announced Friday.

The gift, which came from an anonymous donor, will go toward upgrades to the Broncos’ basketball facilities, which were announced in April as part of Boise State’s Playbook for Success.

“With the recent and historical successes of both the Boise State men’s and women’s basketball programs, the time to elevate is now,” Dickey said in a statement. “We are sincerely grateful for the leadership and commitment displayed through this anonymous gift, which will be transformational in defining what’s next for our basketball facility projects.”

Included in a long list of upgrades to the university’s athletic facilities are several improvements to ExtraMile Arena and the Arguinchona Basketball Complex, including new offices and weight rooms, and a renovated practice gym.

The plan also includes improvements to the amenities at ExtraMile, including more premium seating and loge boxes, a new mezzanine level sideline club and upgrades to the main entrance.

“Our administration has an elite vision for this athletic department, and that vision is shared by us coaches,” Boise State men’s basketball coach Leon Rice said in a statement. “We are building something special here at Boise State, and I couldn’t be more appreciative of our donors stepping up and supporting that.”

Including the latest gift, the Lyle Smith Society has raised $19 million in commitments while adding its 150th member.

The Lyle Smith Society was launched by the Bronco Athletic Association in December 2020. Membership begins with a minimum pledge of $25,000 over a five-year period or an annual gift of $25,000 or more.

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