Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson Stepping Down After 24 Years

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Mountain West Conference Commissioner Craig Thompson announced last Wednesday that he will step down from his position at the end of the year.

Thompson’s resignation will be effective on Dec. 31, 2022.

 “It has been an honor to be part of the Mountain West Conference and direct its growth since 1998, the year in which the Conference was formed,” said Thompson in a press statement.

Thompson’s last priority as commissioner was to expand the College Football Playoff to give Mountain West Conference teams a better chance to have a playoff bid. As a member of the College Football Playoff Management Committee, Thompson helped make that expansion a reality.

“I take considerable pride in my committed engagement to this effort over the past two-and-a-half decades and look forward to the finalization of those details in the coming months,” Thompson said. 

“With CFP expansion accomplished,” he continued, “and having invested almost a third of my life in the Mountain West, the time is now right for me to conclude my tenure and allow the Conference to continue its momentum under new leadership.”

The CFP announced earlier this month that its playoff would expand from four to 12 teams by 2026 at the latest.

“We are stronger because of his work as we go forward into a quickly changing landscape in the NCAA and the College Football Playoff discussions,” UNLV president Keith Whitfield said in a statement. Whitfield is also vice-chair of the conference board of directors.

Thompson is the only commissioner since the Mountain West Conference was formed in 1998. Under Thompson, the Mountain West Conference netted nearly $600 million in television revenue. The expansion of the CFP is set to quadruple the amount of revenue of the Bowl Championship Series.

The most recent television contract for the Mountain West Conference was a six-year, $270 million rights agreement with CBS and FOX Sports. This agreement to cover football and men’s basketball began in 2020 and will run until 2026. 

Thompson is the only active Football Bowl Subdivision commissioner to have more than 30 years of experience in a multi-sport conference. In his 43 years of being an athletic administrator, he spent 35 of them as a commissioner.

When conference realignment swept through the nation, Thompson played a key role in the Mountain West gaining six additional schools. Between 2012 and 2014, Fresno State, UNR, San Jose State, Utah State, University of Hawai‘i football and Colorado college soccer joined the Mountain West Conference.

Prior to being selected as the conference’s first commissioner in 1998, Thompson was the commissioner of the Sun Belt Conference (1991-1998) and the now-defunct American South Conference (1987-1991).

Next year will be the Mountain West Conference’s 25th year and Thompson will be available to consult with the conference to help guide it in the future. There is no announcement at this time on a replacement for Thompson or the process for finding one.

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