Mountain West hires WCC’s Nevarez as commish

The Mountain West hired Gloria Nevarez, who has been leading the West Coast Conference for the past five years, to be its next commissioner on Friday.

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

“We are well-positioned as a league thanks to the incredible legacy of Commissioner Thompson, but we cannot — and will not — rest on our success,” Nevarez said in a statement. “We will be aggressive, we will be innovative, we will be inclusive and we will keep our focus on the student-athletes who call the Mountain West Conference home. I cannot wait to visit our campuses, our Conference staff, and our fans, and to begin the work ahead.”

Nevarez, 51, has led the WCC, home to Gonzaga and one of the top mid-major basketball leagues, since 2018. During her tenure, the conference expanded its national television contracts and added a long-term title sponsor for the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments.

The WCC also adopted the groundbreaking Russell Rule in July 2020, requiring all its schools to include a member of a traditionally underrepresented community in the final candidate pool for every athletic director, senior administrator, head coach and full-time assistant coaching search.

“While we are excited for the opportunity this provides her, our Conference will miss the tremendous leadership and stewardship Gloria has demonstrated in her time as our Commissioner,” Thayne McCulloh, Gonzaga president and chair of the WCC presidents’ council, said in a statement.

Before taking over at the WCC, Nevarez spent about eight years at the Pac-12 as senior associate commissioner. She oversaw all conference sports and championships except football during that time and served as the conference liaison for men’s basketball and tournament director of the men’s basketball tournament in Las Vegas.

The Mountain West has also played its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments in Las Vegas in recent years. The conference has 12 teams in the Mountain and Pacific time zones, plus Hawaii.

Nevarez, a former basketball player at Massachusetts who is from Santa Clara, California, began her career in college sports at Mountain West school San Jose State as director of compliance. She earned a law degree at the University of California, Berkeley.

She also had stints as an administrator at California and Oklahoma.

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