LAS VEGAS -- Coaches around the Mountain West Conference are welcoming the arrival of new members San Jose State and Utah State.
"We played those guys so often over the years that it kind of feels like they were never out, just like we were never out," said Boise State coach Chris Petersen, whose teams were in the Western Athletic Conference from 2001-11. "I think it's a good fit. Certainly the programs are on the rise, which helps everybody."
That doesn't mean there weren't some initial concerns when the two programs accepted invitations to join the conference in May 2012.
"When we first made the decision, I was a little bit hesitant because in recent history, San Jose State had had some tough seasons, as did Utah State," Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter said.
Thanks to revitalization efforts by former Aggies coach Gary Andersen (now at Wisconsin) and former Spartans coach Mike MacIntyre (Colorado), the teams both went 11-2, won bowl games and finished last season nationally-ranked.
"Gary and Mike did great jobs getting those things turned around," DeRuyter said. "I think they greatly add to the profiles of our conference."
The additions allowed the Mountain West to form two divisions and create its first conference championship game, which will be played Dec. 7.
"I think the teams we've added add great strengths to the conference," Wyoming coach Dave Christensen said. "I think the divisions with the Mountain and the West are pretty fair."
San Diego State coach Rocky Long, whose team lost to San Jose State 38-34 last season, was simple with his take on the Spartans.
"I think they've improved the conference," Long said.
Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson said he always felt good about SJSU as a member.
"Personally I felt very strong about San Jose State before an 11-win season," Thompson said. "I think San Jose State is just ready to explode."
Follow Jimmy Durkin at Twitter.com/Jimmy_Durkin.