Conference USA and Mountain West continue expansion talks

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Athletic directors from across the country met this week in Dallas to discuss many things, but the main topic of discussion was conference realignment. Conference USA and Mountain West athletic directors met later in the week to discuss a possible merger between the two, making a "super conference."

Southern Miss Athletic Director Richard Giannini says the meetings between the two sides went well. "We had a meeting with the Mountain West, which I thought was very productive. It's really exciting, some of the things we talked about. We're looking for creative ways to help both our leagues, not only with exposure and television, and marketing the two leagues. The ultimate prize would be working toward getting an automatic spot in the BCS," Giannini said Thursday.

With rumors swirling about teams leaving conferences all across the country, Conference USA has been no different. East Carolina applied to join the Big East, and some think Central Florida would be a candidate to move with the Pirates. However, Giannini thinks those two schools are interested in a merger between C-USA and MWC. Giannini said, "The 12 Conference USA institutions, including East Carolina and Central Florida, are very intrigued and very excited about the concepts that we're working on with the Mountain West."

The Southern Miss Athletic Director said the talks between the two conferences have been going on for about a year now, but discussions have intensified with recent shifts in other conferences. While Giannini doesn't think a deal will be done in the next few weeks, he says a deal may be done soon. Giannini said, "I don't think it'll be in a month or two,  but it could be perhaps before this year is out. I could see it happening. It'd be difficult to make it go for the 2012 season, but I think it's something that we could definitely start by 2013. Everybody is focused, and it's going to happen sooner than later."

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