LAS VEGAS -- If the NCAA allows schools to pay athletes for their full cost of attendance, members of the Mountain West Conference will likely have to make individual decisions on their ability to do so, commissioner Craig Thompson said Tuesday.
Thompson met with reporters on the first of two Mountain West media days and expressed doubt that even all schools from the "higher resource" conferences will be able to afford the full cost of attendance, which is the gap between an athletic scholarships and the true cost of attending school.
For San Jose State, that gap is more than $6,000 per scholarship athlete, based on the school's numbers from the 2012-13 school year. Covering those additional costs for all scholarship athletes in every sport would come with a nearly $1.4 million price tag.
The NCAA Board of Directors will vote Aug. 7 on a new governance model that figures to grant some autonomy to the Power 5 conferences to make some major changes. It's expected to pass, and Thompson believes the first agenda item after autonomy is approved will be the cost of attendance issue.
While changes such as paying for cost of attendance was initiated by the five major conferences, Thompson said that the Mountain West will be allowed to implement those same changes.
The prevailing opinion is that a scholarship doesn't provide enough for athletes. Particularly in sports such as football, the time commitment is such that part-time jobs are impossible.
"We're keeping them there all summer now," New Mexico coach Bob Davie said. "They can't work summer jobs."
That makes it a near-certainty that by 2015, schools will have the ability to increase their contributions. How many schools can afford that in the Mountain West seems to be the million dollar question.
Thompson said they are always looking at ways to increase revenue, but without the type of lucrative television contract that the Power 5 conferences have, there's not enough money to fully support cost of attendance budget increases.
Hope for San Jose State lies in its 2012-13 budget. The school had a more than $1.4 million budget surplus that year -- the latest year for which numbers are available. Theoretically, if it could maintain that type of surplus, SJSU could account for cost of attendance.
But the Spartans also have the Mountain West's smallest budget. That could mean more games against teams such as Auburn, which will pay SJSU $3.1 million for two games over the next two years.
Fresno State was chosen as the favorite in the West, followed by San Diego State, Nevada, UNLV, SJSU and Hawaii.
Boise State is the Mountain Division favorite, followed by Utah State, Colorado State, Wyoming, New Mexico and Air Force.
Utah State quarterback Chuckie Keeton was named the preseason offensive player of the year. Fresno State defensive back Derron Smith was the preseason defensive player of the year for the second straight season.