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Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson speaks during the Mountain West Conference football media day at the Cosmopolitan hotel-casino Tuesday, July 22, 2014, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Las Vegas Review-Journal, Chase Stevens) LOCAL TELEVISION OUT; LOCAL INTERNET OUT; LAS VEGAS SUN OUT
USU notes: MWC commissioner worries schools will struggle because of legislation
First Published Jul 22 2014 09:28 pm • Last Updated Jul 22 2014 09:58 pm

Las Vegas • Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson started off his media session pointing out all the great things about college football and noting the sport, in his opinion, is "healthier than it has ever been."

But then he got real.

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Thompson used much of his session here at MWC Media Days to warn of impending complications as conferences try to sort out and predict how new legislation will affect them.

His biggest concern is how schools in the smaller conferences such as the Mountain West will be able to finance things such as unlimited meals and possibly paying student-athletes the "full cost of attendance."

As the system works now, athletic scholarships don’t cover all the expenses in the government’s cost calculation, which determines the loan amounts for students. Tuition, books, room and board are covered, but other things such as travel expenses aren’t.

Making up the difference in scholarships could cost schools anywhere from $2,000 to $4,000 and possibly more.

While making up such revenue might be easier for the power conferences, the MWC schools could struggle.

According to recent estimates provided to USA Today by Bill Hancock, the executive director of the College Football Playoff, the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC will each have a baseline amount of about $50 million in the first year of a 12-year contract. The other five FBS leagues, including the MWC, will split $75 million.

Thompson called it a "scary time," and predicted three to six years of court battles and appeals as conferences and schools determine how they can handle the fiscal burden of college athletics.

"We are moving into a new realm, a legal realm, where we spend as much time in court as we do on the court of play," he said.

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Not taking the bait • Several members of the media asked Utah State coach Matt Wells if he was upset Boise State was picked ahead of the Aggies in the Mountain Division in the preseason media poll. If they were hoping for a little controversy, they didn’t get it.

Wells brushed aside any thought the Aggies might take the rankings as a slight.

"I don’t use that as motivation," he said. "As many championships as they have won and their consistency, you have to consider that. What we want to do is keep getting better and do things better than we did last year. That is our focus."

Utah State had 12 first-place votes and 176 points while Boise State earned 20 first-place votes and 183 points after finishing the season 8-5 overall and 6-2 in league play.

Fresno State, the defending champion which went 11-2 last year, was picked to win the West with 15 first-place votes and 174 points, followed by San Diego State, Nevada, UNLV, San Jose State and Hawaii.

Fair is Fair: New Mexico coach Bob Davie said he understood why the "big five" conferences are clamoring for a larger piece of the monetary pie, even if it means his league, the MWC, receives less.

"I’ve been there," said Davie, who was Notre Dame’s coach from 1997-2001. "They invest more so they should get more. It’s a different life. I can remember our bookstore at Notre Dame on game day would sell out by 10 a.m., they’d close and re-stock, sell out again, then close and re-stock. That is the reality. The revenue and pressure on those plays day to day is different."

Davie said what he doesn’t want is anything to happen that would make the gap greater and he is against paying players.

"If it’s based on attendance and revenue and things like that, I believe in that," he said. "It’s on us to get there."

Brotherly love: Utah State linebacker Zach Vigil said one of his main goals is to help his little brother, Nick, continue his learning process. Nick, a sophomore, is slated to start at inside linebacker.

"I have to let him know he is still my little brother but it’s going to be fun to play with him," Zach said. "I can’t wait for us to walk into the stadium at Tennessee and tell him how much I love him and look at what we were able to do."

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