Craig Thompson steps down as Mountain West commissioner

Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson speaks Wednesday during the conference's football media days. (Kirk Kenney/San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS)

Craig Thompson has announced his departure as the Mountain West Conference commissioner after 24 years, effective Dec. 31, 2022. 

One of his final priorities as commissioner is the expansion of the College Football Playoff (CFP), and viable access for the Mountain West, Thompson said. 

“I take considerable pride in my committed engagement to this effort over the past 2 ½  decades and look forward to the finalization of those details in the coming months,” he said in a news release

Thompson graduated from the University of Minnesota with an undergraduate degree in journalism. After graduation, he spent two years as an assistant sports information director at Kansas State University, where he earned numerous College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) publication awards. 

He is also a 43-year veteran of the athletic administration,with 35 of those years in the commissioners’ chair. Aside from holding a high position in the Mountain West, Thompson spent his time holding various prestigious positions on NCAA and sport-specific national committees. 

With expanding CFP and spending almost a third of his life in the Mountain West, Thompson passes on his legacy to the next commissioner. 

“The time is now right for me to conclude my tenure and allow the Conference to continue its momentum under new leadership,” he said. 

Thompson has been the only commissioner in the history of the Mountain West Conference, after he began operations in January 1999. He gave nearly 24 years of service to the Conference. 

This was the second NCAA Division I conference that Thompson had launched. 

In his 23 years of leadership, Thompson negotiated nearly $600 million in television revenue to support its member schools, conference teams that have participated in five Bowl Championship Series/CFP bowl games and six inaugural bowl contests. 

Thompson had recently closed a second deal as a member of the NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball Committee aside from being a member of the College Football Officiating Board of Managers, LLC. 

He also served on multiple committees, including the Executive Committee and the Directors’ Cup Committee of the National Association of the Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA). 

He also governed in the NCAA Council and various Council subcommittees, playing prominent roles in numerous men’s and women’s NCAA postseason tournaments. 

The Mountain West said in its press release that Thompson’s leadership has helped shape the conference to what it is today and enhanced its television revenue and exposure. 

In January 2020 Mountain West announced a $270 million six-year media-rights agreement with CBS and Fox Sports. 

Fresno State joined the Mountain West Conference in 2012, 13 years after the conference was created. Before joining the Mountain West, Fresno State was part of the Western Athletic conference following Boise State, University of Hawai’i, UNLV, San Diego State, San Jose State and Utah State. 

Now as Fresno State gears up for the possibility to enter the Pac-12, it could be leaving the conference it has been a part of for 12 years now. Other schools including San Diego State and Boise State are also preparing for the possible departure to the Pac-12.

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