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Mountain West commissioner refutes C-USA merger rumors

The commissioners of the Mountain West Conference and Conference USA did meet Thursday in Colorado Springs, but MWC commissioner Craig Thompson said Friday that some of the headlines the meeting has generated simply aren't true.

Thompson said the leagues are not planning to merge, nor are they going to stage a game between their champions that would award the winner a spot in a BCS bowl -- though the latter idea was broached at the meeting. Thompson said the get-together was a previously planned "think tank" session between himself, C-USA commissioner Britton Banowsky and several athletic directors. Thompson said the commissioners discussed issues such as BCS access and possibly pooling resources for more lucrative media contracts.

Thompson suspects the meeting generated so many headlines because of what happened Wednesday, when the MWC grabbed Fresno State and Nevada from the Western Athletic Conference. The WAC had been negotiating with BYU, an MWC school, to take BYU's other sports if the Cougars decided to go independent in football. "With the week I just had, I almost canceled [the meeting]," Thompson said.

Thompson said the commissioners "threw a lot of stuff against the wall," including the idea of a playoff between the conference's football champions. Such an idea, he said, would require approval by the four BCS bowls and a by majority of the 11 FBS conferences (to allow a seventh automatic qualifier in the BCS) as well as NCAA legislation (to allow for an extra game, since C-USA already stages a championship game). In other words, such an event wouldn't happen anytime soon, if ever. "There's no plan in place," Thompson said. "We can't affect that. There are four bowls and ESPN and nine other conference signatories. It's two guys talking who don't have any control over the vote."

Thompson said his league, which has six years remaining on its deals with Versus, CBS College Sports and the Comcast-owned mtn network, is exploring whether its shift in membership -- Utah accepted a Pac-10 invitation in June, and the MWC is adding Boise State as well as Fresno State and Nevada -- would allow it to renegotiate its media contracts. As for some of the more fantastic rumors that emerged from the meeting, Thompson said they were just that.

Such meetings between conference leaders are not uncommon, though some have led to big moves. Reminded that similar ACC-Big East and Pac-10-Big 12 meetings served as a prelude to one conference trying to raid the other, Thompson laughed. "Maybe I should have canceled it," he joked.

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