Mountain West Conference, which includes Hawaii, names new commissioner

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — The Mountain West on Friday hired Gloria Nevarez, who has led the West Coast Conference for five years, as its next commissioner.

Nevarez replaces longtime commissioner Craig Thompson, who announced his retirement in September. She will take over on Jan. 1 and will become the second woman, alongside Conference USA’s Judy MacLeod, to chair a major college football conference.

“We will be aggressive. We will be innovative. We will be inclusive and remain focused on the student-athletes who call the Mountain West Conference home,” Nevarez said during a conference call with reporters.

Nevarez, 51, has chaired the West Coast Conference, home of Gonzaga and one of Division I’s top mid-level basketball leagues, since 2018. During her tenure, the conference expanded its national television deals and added a long-term title sponsor for the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments.

The WCC adopted the groundbreaking “Russell Rule” in July 2020, requiring all of its schools to include a member of a traditionally underrepresented community in the final pool of candidates for each athletic director, chief administrator, head coach and full-time assistant coach.

She has also been active at the NCAA level, currently as a member of the Division I Transformation Committee, which works to reform issues such as membership standards and access to championship events.

She enters 12 School Mountain West at a time when the conference realignment in the upper parts of Division I appears to be slowing but may not be complete.

The Pac-12 is still working on its next moves after announcing over the summer that Southern California and UCLA will join the Big Ten in 2025.

Mountain West member San Diego State was mentioned most often as the most likely target for the Pac-12 should it decide to grow.

“I think it’s my responsibility to communicate openly with all members of the Mountain West Conference and also to keep the horizon and pulse of what’s going on and to constantly call our members to talk about membership and even thinking about it if we don’t run the risk of losing a school,” Nevarez said.

Prior to joining the WCC, Nevarez spent approximately eight years as a Senior Associate Commissioner with the Pac-12. During this time she oversaw all conference sports and championships except soccer and served as men’s basketball conference liaison and tournament director for the Las Vegas Men’s Basketball Tournament.

The Mountain West has also hosted its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments in Las Vegas for the past several years. The conference has schools in the Mountain and Pacific time zones and Hawaii.

Nevarez, a native of Santa Clara, California, and a former Massachusetts basketball player, began her collegiate athletic career at Mountain West School in San Jose State as the director of compliance. She earned a law degree from the University of California, Berkeley.

She also served as an administrator at Cal and Oklahoma.

Nevarez comes from a conference that has not sponsored football, but noted that she has spent most of her career at schools and conferences where football is the top-grossing sport.

“There isn’t a piece of great football that I haven’t worked with. And as you know, it drives the club. For me, this is a great opportunity,” Nevarez said. “I attended major public state institutions: high school, college, law school. I’ve worked at similar institutions for most of my career and I’m really looking forward to returning to my roots in major public and football sponsorship institutions.”

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