Utah State University accepts invitation to join Mountain West Conference

LOGAN, Utah (Friday, May 4) – Utah State University has accepted an invitation for its athletic teams to become members of the Mountain West Conference (MW) it was announced Friday by University President Stan L. Albrecht and Director of Athletics Scott Barnes. USU will officially join the MW on July 1, 2013.

The invitation was extended by the chair of the Mountain West Board of Directors and UNLV President Neal J. Smatresk and MW Commissioner Craig Thompson.

Fellow Western Athletic Conference member San Jose State University was also issued an invitation to join the Mountain West and accepted. Both USU and SJSU will begin competing in the MW in the 2013-14 academic year in all sports except gymnastics, which the MW does not sponsor. USU gymnastics has several options for a future home that will be determined at a later date.

“This is an exciting moment for Utah State University as the decision renews historic rivalries and places us in a conference that is a model of athletic and academic success,” said Albrecht. “We are proud to join with this group of high-quality institutions as we continue our very positive upward trajectory. This is a great day for Utah State athletics and for the university as a whole.”

During the 2012-13 seasons, Utah State will continue to compete in the WAC in all sports along with football members Idaho, Louisiana Tech, New Mexico State, San Jose State, Texas State and UTSA, and non-football members Denver, Seattle and UT Arlington.

“This is truly a great day for Aggie nation. Membership in the Mountain West solidifies our course as an athletic program for many years into the future,” said Barnes. “Our student-athletes will soon have the opportunity to compete and grow on a much larger national stage, while enjoying the benefits of competing with institutions closer in proximity. Certainly our alumni and friends will have more opportunities to follow their Aggies on the road in league play. We are grateful for the platform the WAC provided us to grow and excel, and we look forward with anticipation to the new challenges that are just ahead of us in the Mountain West.”

The Mountain West, which is based in Colorado Springs, Colo., was founded with eight members in 1998. Current membership includes the U.S. Air Force Academy, Boise State University, Colorado State University, the University of New Mexico, San Diego State University, TCU, UNLV and the University of Wyoming. TCU is joining the Big 12 Conference for the 2012-13 seasons, while the University of Nevada and Fresno State will become full MW members on July 1, 2012. The University of Hawai’i will also join the MW in 2012 as a football affiliate. Boise State and San Diego State are expected to become members of the Big East Conference in football in 2013 and the Broncos plan on moving the remainder of its sports to the WAC for the 2013-14 academic year, while the Aztecs will move its remaining sports to the Big West Conference.

“We are pleased to announce the addition of San Jose State University and Utah State University to the ranks of the Mountain West,” said Thompson. “As we have developed the strategy for the future of the conference, the long-standing rivalries with our current members and the fit within our geographic footprint made these two institutions the optimal choices to strengthen our membership and position ourselves for the next steps.”

Utah State fields teams in 16 different sports including seven men’s sports of basketball, cross country, football, golf, indoor track and field, outdoor track and field, and tennis and nine women’s sports of basketball, cross country, gymnastics, indoor track and field, outdoor track and field, soccer, softball, tennis and volleyball.

The Mountain West sponsors all of those sports except gymnastics as well as sponsoring baseball, women’s golf and women’s swimming and diving.

Utah State and San Jose State will be able to continue their longtime rivalry as both schools were members of the Big West Conference from 1979-1996 and then were reunited in the WAC in 2005. The two programs will be meeting for the 35th time on the football field this fall, which is the eighth-oldest rivalry in school history, while the basketball teams have met 70 times, which is the sixth-oldest USU rivalry all-time.

Utah State will also renew some old rivalries from its days as a member of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference (1916-37) and the Mountain States/Skyline Conference (1938-61) when it competed against current MW schools Colorado State, New Mexico and Wyoming. All-time, USU and CSU have met 67 times on the gridiron and 83 times on the hardwood, as the football series ranks as the third-longest in school history and the basketball series ranks as the fifth-longest. USU and UW have faced one another 63 times in football and 66 times in basketball, ranking as the fourth-longest football rivalry in school history and the eighth-oldest basketball rivalry. And USU and UNM have played one another 23 times in basketball and 18 times in football.

Utah State will also realign with current WAC members Fresno State, Hawai’i and Nevada as USU has played the Bulldogs 27 times in football and 51 times in basketball, the Wolf Pack 22 times in football and 44 times in basketball, and the Warriors 12 times in football.

Another familiar opponent that will return to USU’s schedules is UNLV as the two schools were both members of the Big West Conference from 1983-1996 meeting on the basketball court 30 times and on the football field 19 times.

For the past seven years (2006-12), Utah State has been a member of the WAC and has produced 23 regular season conference team championships, including four in both men’s basketball and men’s outdoor track and field, six in men’s cross country, three in both women’s soccer and men’s indoor track and field, two in women’s cross country and one in women’s indoor track and field.

Furthermore, Utah State’s men’s basketball program is one of just five schools nationally to record 13-straight 21 wins seasons joining Duke, Gonzaga, Kansas and Syracuse, and has advanced to 13-straight postseasons (8-NCAA, 4-NIT, 1-CIT), which is tied for the 11th-longest active streak in the nation. USU’s women’s basketball team has advanced to postseason play in each of the last two years, participating in the Women’s National Invitational Tournament, while its women’s soccer program advanced to its first-ever NCAA Tournament in 2012. And finally, Utah State’s football team finished the 2012 season in second-place in the WAC and played in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, its first bowl game since 1997.

Utah State’s success has not been limited to the playing fields as the Aggies have annually been among the league leaders in academic all-conference selections. During the 2010-11 academic year, Utah State led the WAC with 228 academic all-conference honorees and USU has led its league in academic all-conference recipients in 12 of the past 13 years including in each of its first six years in the WAC.

Utah State also has a Graduation Success Rate (GSR) of 84 percent and its 400-plus student-athletes have a cumulative grade-point average of 3.17. Furthermore, among Utah State’s 16 NCAA sponsored sports, two have a 100 percent GSR, including softball and men’s basketball – which has achieved that metric for four-straight years. Other USU sports that have excelled within the GSR framework are women’s basketball and soccer which both have GSR’s of 94 and 91 percent, respectively. No Utah State team has less than a current 75 percent graduation success rate.

Utah State has been a Division I-A/Bowl Championship Series football playing school in each of its 113 seasons of competition. USU joined the Mountain States Conference in 1938, which evolved into the Skyline Conference until 1961. Utah State then played as a football independent from 1962-77 when the Aggies became members of the Pacific Coast Athletic Association in 1978. The PCAA changed its name to the Big West Conference in 1988. Following the 2000 season when the Big West Conference no longer sponsored football, Utah State spent two years as an independent (2001-02) and two years in the Sun Belt Conference (2003-04) before joining the Western Athletic Conference in 2005.

Utah State’s basketball team played in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference from 1918-37 and the Mountain States Conference from 1938-62, followed by independence from 1963-78. USU was then a member of the PCAA/Big West Conference from 1979-2005 before joining the WAC for the 2005-06 season.

Overall, Utah State football has played in seven bowl games (1946 Raisin Bowl, 1947 Grape Bowl, 1960 Sun Bowl, 1961 Gotham Bowl, 1993 Las Vegas Bowl, 1997 Humanitarian Bowl, 2012 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl), winning the 1993 Las Vegas Bowl, while Utah State men’s basketball has appeared in the NCAA Tournament 20 times (1939, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1970, 1971, 1975, 1980, 1983, 1988, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2009, 2010, 2011) reaching the Regional Finals in 1970.

Utah State University Quick Facts

Location: Logan, Utah

Founded: 1888

Enrollment: 25,767

President: Stan L. Albrecht (Washington State, 1970)

Director of Athletics: Scott Barnes (Fresno State, 1986)

Nickname: Aggies

Colors: Navy Blue, White and Pewter Gray

Website: www.UtahStateAggies.com

<a href=”%20%20%20http://podcast.cachevalleydaily.com/Press%20Conf-Coverage%20of%20USU%20to%20MWC%205-4-12.mp3″>Listen: Press Conference announcing USU to the MWC</a>

<a href=”http://podcast.cachevalleydaily.com/Craig%20Thompson%20Teleconference%205-4-12.mp3″>Listen: Mountain West Conference teleconference announcing invitations to USU and SJSU</a>

What Others Are Saying About Utah State’s Move To The Mountain West

Gary Andersen, Utah State Head Football Coach

“It is a tremendous opportunity for us as a football program to join the Mountain West in 2013. It is a conference I have been involved in for many years throughout my coaching career here at Utah State and at Utah. I have a tremendous amount of respect for the teams in the Mountain West, both those that are remaining from the old alignment as well as the former WAC teams. It is an incredible opportunity for us to compete at a high level. Our mind-set right now is to contend for a WAC championship in the highly-competitive conference in 2012, get back to a bowl game and win a bowl game.”

Stew Morrill, Utah State Head Men’s Basketball Coach

“This is a great day for Utah State and an exciting and challenging move for our programs. President Albrecht and Director of Athletics Scott Barnes deserve lots of props for their efforts that made this move possible. In basketball, we will be competing in a high-level conference with very good teams. A high level of commitment will be necessary by all Aggies to make this step up successful. It’s certainly been an amazing journey from the Big West to the WAC and now to the Mountain West.”

Jerry Finkbeiner, Utah State Head Women’s Basketball Coach

“My initial thoughts are that I have always thought of the Mountain West as one of the top women’s basketball conferences in the country. There is a lot of tradition and a lot of excellence in the Mountain West, and I think it will do nothing but enhance our program at Utah State and the direction in which the program is evolving in all areas. It is a progressive step up in all areas, and I look forward to the challenges and the rewards that come with that.”

Grayson DuBose, Utah State Head Women’s Volleyball Coach

“Leaving the WAC will be bittersweet due to the accomplishments we achieved. However, we look forward to becoming a part of the Mountain West and adding to their volleyball success, it is a conference that has continued to raise its volleyball profile. As players and a staff, we are excited about the challenge of competing in the Mountain West in the years to come.”

Heather Cairns, Utah State Head Women’s Soccer Coach

“I have greatly appreciated the time that we have competed in the WAC as we won our first tournament title and reached our first NCAA Tournament as a member of that league. I am looking forward to the stability that joining the Mountain West will bring Utah State athletics and our soccer program. The Mountain West is a competitive soccer conference, and I am looking forward to rejoining some of our old rivals as well as the opportunity to begin to establish new ones.”

Gregg Gensel, Utah State Men’s and Women’s Head Cross Country/Track and Field Coach

“Going into the Mountain West is going to be a step in the right direction for Aggie sports as a whole, especially track and field due to the level of competition within that conference. The familiarity we already have with the regionally located schools currently competing in the Mountain West will bring more excitement to both our student-athletes and fans.”

– USU –

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