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By Lewis, Ferd | Honolulu Star - Advertiser, February 14, 2012 | Go to article overview

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Lewis, Ferd, Honolulu Star - Advertiser


Going long won't just be a pass play in the University of Hawaii's football playbook; soon it will become a description of the Warriors' new conference home that will stretch at least 4,800 miles from Hono­lulu to Greenville, N.C.

The Mountain West, which UH is scheduled to join as a football-only member in July, will dissolve and merge with the remnants of Conference USA in 2013 to form an as-yet-unnamed "super conference" of at least 16 members, according to announcements Monday.

Most of UH's other sports will compete in the California-based Big West beginning in 2012 as the Warriors leave the Western Athletic Conference after 33 years.

"I think this is terrific for UH football, for everybody involved," Warriors football coach Norm Chow said.

"This is excellent for UH," said Jim Dono­van, UH athletic director.

Increasingly ravaged by defections, the MWC and C-USA will repackage as a regionally based association July 1, 2013, that officials say is designed to provide enhanced stability and marketing opportunities. Expansion to as many as 18 to 24 members is a possibility.

Besides UH, the schools involved are the Air Force Academy, Ala­bama-Bir­ming­ham, Colo­rado State, East Caro­lina, Fresno State, Marshall, Nevada, Nevada-Las Vegas, New Mexico, Rice, Southern Mississippi, Texas-El Paso, Tulane, Tulsa and Wyoming.

Already there is speculation that Temple University of Philadelphia and Miami-based Florida International may be asked to join.

Talks between the two midmajor conferences, then totaling 22 members, gained momentum last summer as a football-only union. But as the defections began to mount, discussions shifted to an all-sports amalgamation. San Diego State, Boise State and Texas Christian will depart the MWC by 2013, while C-USA loses Memphis, Central Florida, Houston and Southern Methodist.

Chief executives from the remaining 16 member-schools, including UH President M.R.C. Greenwood, met Sunday in Dallas, where "there was a rock-solid commitment to move this forward," said Neal Smatresk, president of Nevada-Las Vegas and chairman of the MWC board of directors.

Smatresk, who was a vice chancellor at UH, said the Warriors would gain "stability and predictable scheduling with a region they are already well familiar with."

Initially, at least, plans call for two geographically based divisions that Scott Cowen, Tulane president and C-USA chairman, said "will look fairly similar to the way the Mountain West looks now and C-USA looks now."

UTEP, a former Western Athletic Conference member now in C-USA, is expected to move into the West.

But Cowen said, "Over time we definitely anticipate there will be some crossover games," meaning teams from western and eastern divisions would eventually compete against each other. …

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