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Conference Realignment: MWC, C-USA Merging To Form New Conference

After months of news about one potential merger or "alliance" or another, the Mountain West Conference and Conference USA have made ... something official, issuing a joint release on starting up a new conference for 2013, as reported moments before by soothsayer Brett McMurphy.

The release hopes for membership of "18 to 24 universities" and a football championship game that includes a semifinals round (ooh!). Current members of the C-USA and MWC are listed as all-sports members moving forward, with the exception of Hawai'i, which will join in football only. That leaves the conference needing like a whole 'nother conference in order to get up to its number, which could mean bringing up multiple schools from the FCS ranks.

The release:

Presidents and chancellors from 16 universities met in Dallas Sunday to discuss future conference membership plans and agreed to work on forming a new intercollegiate athletic association that would begin competition in the 2013-14 academic year.

This presidentially-led association will ensure stability and be built upon the principles of operating at the highest level of integrity and sportsmanship, enhancing the student-athlete academic and competitive experience, bringing fiscal discipline into athletics and ensuring competitive fairness.

"This is an exciting development that will stabilize the current conferences and create the first truly national conference with members in five time zones and television viewership from coast to coast. This partnership brings together like-minded institutions to improve the integrity and stability of intercollegiate athletics," said UNLV President Neal Smatresk. "We are moving our plans forward rapidly and expect to complete our conversations in the near future. Look for further announcements soon as we work together on this exciting new venture."

Universities involved in the discussions were the United States Air Force Academy, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Colorado State University, East Carolina University, Fresno State, University of Hawai'i, Marshall University, University of Nevada, Reno, University of New Mexico, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Rice University, University of Southern Mississippi, University of Texas at El Paso, Tulane University, The University of Tulsa and University of Wyoming. With the exception of Hawai'i as a football-only member, the participation would involve all sports.

The structure of the new conference will likely include:

• Membership of 18 to 24 universities
• National scope from the Atlantic Seaboard to Hawaii
• Championship football game format that includes semifinal match-ups
• Championship basketball tournament
• Regular season scheduling in divisions

For more on the MWC, visit Mountain West blog Mountain West Connection.