Gonzaga move makes sense... but only with a partner!
March 06, 2018 3:01 AM
by Nick Pellegrino
Gonzaga University may be making its final West Coast Conference men’s basketball tournament championship appearance entering tonight’s finale at The Orleans Arena here in Las Vegas.
Rumors are swirling that the Bulldogs may be in discussions with officials from the Mountain West Conference to join as soon as next school year. If this occurs, could Brigham Young University – Gonzaga’s opponent for the WCC crown – be following them?
Besides the obvious financial implications – the Zags are tired of sharing money earned from NCAA appearances, while other teams rarely come close to qualifying – BYU offers several advantages for both the conference and the school besides a solid basketball program.
With two schools joining, they offer symmetry by balancing the divisions in basketball. But it “maintains” the balance in football, too.
Gonzaga, once a West Coast football power early last century, hasn’t fielded a team on the gridiron since the conclusion of the 1941 season. However, BYU, which won the national championship in 1984 after defeating Michigan at the Holiday Bowl in San Diego, can maintain and improve its agenda.
The Cougars are currently an independent in football, so teaming with Gonzaga would leave Mountain West football as is. However, with an affiliation in a conference with football (the WCC does not), the Cougars would gain greater access to opponents, since it’s difficult to schedule a 12-game schedule.
The Mountain West gains a television market in Washington state, then regains the Salt Lake City market since Utah left to join the Pacific 10 (now 12) Conference.
Buoyed by a number of appearances on ESPN and reaching the NCAA title game last season, Gonzaga considers themselves as a brand name and would like a bigger share of WCC money. However, the conference currently has no commissioner and is usually low in making major moves anyway, adding fuel for Gonzaga athletic director Mike Roth and men’s basketball coach Mark Few to seek better compensation elsewhere.
MWC commissioner Craig Thompson only confirmed he’s been in talks with “six university presidents and/or athletic directors,” as reported by Mark Zeigler of the San Diego Union-Tribune.