When the NCAA Division I council this week removed the requirements that dictated how conferences determine a champion, the Pac-12 immediately announced that it would scrap its division format for the upcoming football season.
The Mountain West has also considered removing its division format — its 12 teams are split equally between the Mountain and West divisions — but the MW won’t move as fast as the Pac-12.
The Mountain West Board of Directors would need to approve such a change at its meeting in early June. A conference spokesman said the earliest the 12-team division would come is the 2023 season, as this year’s schedule is already set. (San Diego State opens MW game Oct. 1 in Boise State.)
Before the NCAA changed the rule, conferences that couldn’t play a full round-robin schedule had to split into two divisions if they wanted to hold a conference championship game.
The Mountain West split into two divisions in 2013 and began hosting a conference championship game when the conference expanded to 12 teams.
The Mountain Division includes Air Force, Boise State, Colorado State, New Mexico, Utah State and Wyoming. The West Division includes the state of Fresno, Hawaii, Nevada, the state of San Diego, the state of San Jose, and UNLV.
The impetus for moving to a division would be to ensure that the two teams in the conference with the best records for the conference championship meet.
In 2019, Hawaii (5-3 in conference) went to the title game against Boise State (8-0) even though two other mountain teams — Air Force (7-1) and Utah State (6-2) — had better records .
In 2014, Fresno State (5-3) was the West winner against Boise State (7-1), although again two other mountain teams — Colorado State (6-2) and Utah State (6-2) — were better Records.
The Mountain West played as a 12-team conference during the shortened 2020 season, which was impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Championship game representatives were determined by winning percentage this year as some teams had games canceled due to COVID-19 issues.
San Jose State (6-0) and Boise State (5-0) were playing for the 2020 title, although Nevada (6-2) had more wins than the Broncos.
The division format was not an issue for the Mountain West in its first decade of existence. The conference debuted in 1999 with eight teams. In 2005 a ninth team – TCU – was added.
The Mountain West shrank to eight teams when BYU and Utah departed and Boise State arrived in 2011. A year later, TCU left, but Hawaii and Fresno State joined to make it a 10-team conference.
The Mountain West has existed in its current 12-team alignment since 2013, when the states of Utah and San Jose joined the conference and it split into the Mountain and West divisions.