Jackson, Wyo. • For weeks the prevailing theory regarding Mountain West Conference expansion was that the nine presidents of member schools would convene here, think and talk, and ultimately invite Boise State to join their legion.
When the annual meetings concluded here Monday morning, the conference had invited nothing but more speculation and theories. Its board of directors did not vote on expansion, but plan to revisit it when the plans of other conferences materialize.
"Right now we're all in this wonderful vortex of speculation, innuendo, hearsay, green light, go, mandate stay," Commissioner Craig Thompson said. "It's very confusing times for everybody, I think."
The issue for the board wasn't as simple as whether Boise State was a good fit for the conference, Thompson said. Their conversation, which spanned from Sunday to Monday at Jackson's Wort Hotel, was influenced largely by news that the Pacific-10 intends to invite six teams from the Big Twelve and that the Big 10 is eyeing Missouri and Nebraska.
Thompson said it would be "preferable" for other moves to go through before the Mountain West plays its hand. He said the conference would also act independently, if necessary.
"You may be forced to act or react accordingly," he said, "but you can also set your own prerogative."
The potential for seismic shifts had the board discussing expanding to as many as 16 teams, though Thompson said that was not ideal. He said conversations hinged on a lot of "ifs."
"If this happens, and those people are available, and that institution's available, if someone were to leave the Mountain West Conference," he said.
Thompson said the board would discuss expansion again before the July 1 deadline by which Boise State needs to notify the Western Athletic Conference of any intention to leave. He said the presidents are armed with information to act quickly once they have a better sense of the national landscape.
"Basically they're all on point that the next time I call them it's an important call and please be a part of the conversation," he said. "There is no finite timeline."
Thompson said "50 or 60" schools were mentioned, but specifically addressed the merits of Boise State.
"Geography, history, competitive on-field performance," he said. "There's a lot of positives."
In a statement, Boise State President Bob Kustra called the holding pattern "understandable" given the national climate.
"The most appropriate action at this juncture is to wait and see how the variables unfold," he said. "The opportunity has not been lost."
San Diego State President Stephen Weber said the board didn't reach the conclusion he had expected because of the rapidly changing landscape.
"I think the source of our caution was the rapidly changing environment in which we would be making a decision about expansion," he said. "There's just so much going on right now that we thought we ought to have a better sense of the context before we make a call."
He said the board has a good sense of how it will react to given situations that could develop and that it will be able to act quickly when they further discuss the issue.
"Because we had such a thorough conversation here in Jackson Hole I don't think the conversations will be lengthy," he said.
If Boise State joins the Mountain West by 2011, its success over the past two seasons including a Fiesta Bowl win in January over TCU would be included in a formula the Bowl Championship Series is using to determine whether the conference deserves an automatic qualification.
Utah President Michael Young said last week that the BCS should not be a factor for deciding on expansion, but Thompson said other presidents felt differently.
Schools such as Utah and TCU have been mentioned as possible matches for the Pac-10 and Big 12, but Thompson said he was "pretty confident" the Mountain West would hold on to its nine current teams.
As for Boise State the school whose football team has been made famous by trickery, a penchant for winning games few expect it to and 5,330 square yards of blue turf it is still very much in the picture.
"The interest the board had in particular in Boise State coming into the meeting probably hasn't changed going out of the meeting," Thompson said.
As he explained away the board's lack of action in the shadow of Grand Tetons, Thompson made one point clearly and often.
"I think expansion is still very much alive," he said.
Delay of game?
• The Mountain West Conference decided not to invite Boise State at its annual board of directors meeting, but did not rule out doing so in the coming weeks.
• The board, made up of presidents of the nine member schools, discussed scenarios in which the conference would grow to as many as 16 programs.
• Boise State must notify the Western Athletic Conference by July 1 if it intends to leave prior to the 2011 season.