Rumors Flying That UTEP Could Move to Mountain West Conference
Rumors are circulating that UTEP could be on the verge of switching conference affiliations, and sources indicate that the Mountain West would be looking to add another team for basketball. The MWC currently has 11 teams for basketball and coaches are pushing for the league to add a 12th member for hoops. The Miners have not returned to the NCAA Tournament in men's basketball since the 2009-10 season when Tony Barbee led them to a CUSA regular season title. It is no secret that UTEP head coach Tim Floyd has been unhappy with CUSA's perception as a one bid league and he has struggled to win in the league's postseason tournament.
As for football, the MWC currently has 12 teams. Hawaii is a football only school, so adding UTEP would make 13 teams. However, Hawaii's financial struggles with athletics are well documented and they're future in the MWC is also a big question mark. Just two years ago, the school's athletic director went on record saying that there was a chance that Hawaii would have to drop football. However, the Warriors now have a new athletic director and head football coach, and their future in Division 1 college football appears stable.
If UTEP is going to receive a coveted invite into the MWC, the school is playing their hand like a high stakes game of Texas Hold'em. As expected nobody from the university is commenting, but the rumor of has been gaining ground on many of the popular fan blog sites, including Kyyote'Den and the MWC fan message board. It doesn't take a genius to realize that school President Diana Natalicio and Athletic Director Bob Stull have to get UTEP out of CUSA as soon as possible. The league just lost a fortune on their new TV contract, they get zero respect for men's and women's basketball, and football is not near the top mid major conferences in the country.
One interesting side note with the UTEP to the MWC story is the potential ripple effect on NMSU. The Aggies were denied entry into the Sun Belt after the 2017 season, and the program has been on the verge of returning to an Independent for football. However, if the Miners do leave CUSA for the MWC, then the Aggies would line up as a perfect replacement for them in CUSA. NMSU AD Mario Moccia can only hope for that as the best possible outcome for his athletic program.