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Conference tumult continues as Mountain West nabs Fresno State and Nevada from WAC

August 18, 2010 |  8:52 pm

It was another crazy day in a crazy off-season of conference realignment in college sports. The day started with a report that Brigham Young was leaving the Mountain West to become an independent in football with all other sports moving to the Western Athletic Conference.

What seemed a possible death blow to the Mountain West took a sharp turn in the afternoon when the league extended offers to WAC members Fresno State and Nevada, with both schools accepting Wednesday evening.

Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson said on a Wednesday night conference call, however, that the moves were not a counter to BYU's reported departure.

"No," Thompson said. "We were simply looking to get better."

Thompson said, as of Wednesday night, BYU was still a member of the Mountain West.

"I read the same things you all read," he said. "I don't know what BYU's intentions were or are. This was simply a move to make the Mountain West a better conference, which it did."

Thompson did say his league had a liberal exit policy. "If something's not working for whatever reason, simply give us notice, and we wish you the very best."

Thompson said Nevada and Fresno State will join the Mountain West in 2011 or 2012. If BYU stays, the Mountain West would have 11 schools

Without Wednesday's pickups, Boise State, which has agreed to leave the WAC for the Mountain West in 2011, might have balked at joining a league losing BYU and Utah, which is joining the Pac-10 next year.

Instead, it appears the Mountain West's moves will bolster its position to become a major BCS conference and greatly weaken the WAC, which will be left with only six football-playing members. The NCAA requires eight schools to make a conference, meaning the WAC will have to go looking to other conferences for additional schools.

WAC Commissioner Karl Benson could not be reached for comment.

BYU's future is yet to be determined. The school never announced it was leaving the Mountain West, although it was proclaimed a "done deal" by the Salt Lake Tribune. But that was before the moves by Thompson to add Fresno State and Nevada.

One problem is that BYU's plan to place all sports other than football in the WAC took a blow with the departures of Fresno State and Nevada. It has been speculated that the West Coast Conference, which does not offer football, might absorb BYU's other sports.

chris.dufresne@latimes.com

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