Mountain West, Conference USA Form 22-Member Football League

The Mountain West Conference and Conference USA agreed in principle to combine their schools’ football programs into a 22-team association, the conferences said yesterday on their websites.

The Big East, meanwhile, will send out invitations as early as next week to Boise State University, Air Force and Navy as football-only members, and the University of Central Florida for all sports, CBS Sports reported, citing industry officials.

The combined Mountain West-Conference USA program includes schools in five time zones and 16 states.

“Rather than await changes in membership due to realignment, it became clear the best way to serve our institutions was to pursue an original concept,” Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson said in a statement. “The creative merger of our football assets firmly positions our respective members for the future.”

Conference USA has current television partnerships with Fox Sports and CBS Sports, as well as ESPN for its championship game, the schools said. The Mountain West has partnerships with CBS Sports and Comcast/NBC Universal.

The Big East presidents and chancellors, meanwhile, are meeting either tomorrow or Oct. 17 to approve an exit fee of at least $10 million for football members, twice the current amount, CBS Sports said.

The Big East will have 10 football schools if Boise State, Air Force, Navy and Central Florida join and Texas Christian, Pittsburgh and Syracuse defect, CBS Sports reported. The league also is considering Houston, Southern Methodist and Temple for membership, CBS Sports said.