From its inception in 1999, the Mountain West Conference has been committed to excellence in intercollegiate athletics, while promoting the academic missions of its member institutions. Progressive in its approach, the MWC continues to cultivate opportunities for student-athletes to compete at the highest level, while fostering academic achievement and sportsmanship. Now in its ninth year, the MWC 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 Conference is noted for its geographic diversity. Some of the most beautiful terrain and landscapes in the nation can be found within Mountain West Conference boundaries, including the majestic Rocky Mountain range, which borders four MWC schools (Utah, BYU, Air Force and Colorado State). The high plains of Wyoming (elevation 7,220 feet – the highest Division I campus in the nation) contrast with the desert city of Las Vegas (the fastest growing metropolitan area in the West) and the Pacific Ocean locale of San Diego State. The southwestern flavor of New Mexico complements the western heritage and culture of Fort Worth, Texas, home of the MWC’s newest member, TCU.
The Mountain West Conference 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 the 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. Five of the MWC’s eight original members have been conference rivals since the 1960s (BYU, Utah, New Mexico, Wyoming, Colorado State), while San Diego State (1978) and Air Force (1980) were longtime members as well. UNLV entered the fold in 1996 and TCU began its first year of competition in 2005-06, completing the membership in the MWC as it stands today.
The 2007-08 campaign provided several notable moments for Mountain West teams and individuals. The MWC sent a record five teams to bowl games and posted a 4-1 mark in those contests to capture the Bowl Challenge Cup for the second time in four years, registering the best win percentage among the 11 conferences that make up the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision. League champion BYU finished the season with an 11-2 record and national ranking for the second consecutive year, closing out the year at No. 14 in both the Associated Press and USA Today Top 25 polls. The Cougars also ended the season with the nation’s longest active home and overall win streaks at 12 and 10 games, respectively.
BYU became the first team to claim back-to-back outright MWC regular-season men’s basketball crowns while finishing the year with the nation’s longest active home win streak at 47 games. UNLV captured the MWC Tournament title and earned the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive season, advancing past the first round for the second straight year. BYU earned an at-large bid to NCAA postseason play, marking the eighth time in the last nine years the MWC has sent multiple teams to the NCAA Tournament.
The MWC television package will reach a national audience in 2008-09 through a combination of telecasts on The Mountain West Sports Network (The Mtn.), CBS College Sports Network (formerly CSTV) and VERSUS. The Mtn. has been available to cable subscribers in the MWC footprint since it first aired in 2006-07 and will be available nationally on DIRECTV starting August 27, 2008.
In the summer of 2006 saw the historic launch of The Mtn. – the first sports network dedicated to serving a single collegiate athletic conference. The Mtn. provides sports fans blanket coverage of MWC athletics across multiple sports, including football, men’s and women’s basketball, and men’s and women’s Olympic sports. The Mtn. features more than just live games and has added its own original programming. Fans get a comprehensive array of news, features and analysis about their favorite MWC teams and players. In 2007-08, more than 250 MWC events were shown live on The Mtn., CBS C and VERSUS. CBS C is currently available in over 65 million homes, while VERSUS is in more than 73 million households.
The MWC has remained steadfast in its mission to promote the league’s athletic events to national and regional television audiences and will continue to grow its new TV model. Previously, ESPN served as the league’s inaugural official television partner, while in-house productions guaranteed coverage for several MWC Olympic sports. Through the league’s first nine years, excluding institutional local packages, 1,200 football, volleyball, men’s basketball and women’s basketball events have aired on television, with 178 football games and over 159 men’s basketball contests broadcast nationally.