There is no #59 on the roster. I was one of the millions of people who watched Hamilton on Disney+ over the weekend and all the political drama and backstabbing got me thinking about all the political drama and backstabbing in the Mountain West. The Airport Meeting! The Project! Whatever that Boise State to the Big East Thing Was Called!
So why not waste some time comparing Mountain West football programs to characters from Hamilton? What else do you have to do? Work? Work!
Alexander Hamilton • Colorado State Rams
1998. Denver International Airport. Four university presidents and the superintendent of the United States Air Force hold a top-secret meeting. The topic? Revolution. The ring leader? Colorado State president Al Yates.
The 16-team WAC had become an unwieldy mess. Wyoming being put in a different division was the last straw for Yates, prompting him to gather the heads of Wyoming, Utah, Air Force, and BYU to start a new break-off conference.
2012. The Big East comes west and captures the Mountain West’s most prized possession, Boise State, along with the coattail-riding San Diego State. It is a done deal until rumors of another secret meeting surface. This time involving Boise State president Bob Kustra, Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson, and CSU AD Jack Graham. Graham’s sales pitch: keep what you kill. (Not as eloquent as Hamilton, but effective none-the-less.) Boise State can negotiate their own television contract outside of the conference TV deal and keep the profits. The maneuver works, Boise stays west.
Time after time whenever something significant happened in the Mountain West, Colorado State was in the room where it happened.
Even though Hamilton is the protagonist and starts off the show pretty strong, he never becomes president and he ends up suffering huge defeats in the second act. So… Colorado State, basically.
(Also, this would make West Virginia President Gordon Gee our Maria Reynolds, the Big 12 our James Reynolds, and that slide show presentation for the Big 12 our Reynolds Pamphlet.)
Aaron Burr • BYU Cougars
“If you stand for nothing, Burr, what’ll you fall for?”
During BYU’s time in the Mountain West, they had a habit of never really taking a stance. CSU took the lead on the airport meeting. BYU had to go a long, what other choice did they have? The controversial Mtn Network? Not BYU’s fault, they had a new president and athletic director and couldn’t be bothered with the details of launching the first conference-specific network in the history of college athletics! How could they have known there would be issues? The Project? Not their fault! It was the WAC who approached them with a plan to destroy the Mountain West. They were just listening! Is that so wrong?
The cowards from Provo spent years in the Mountain West not taking a stance on any important issue. There were also the constant rumors of independence, but that didn’t happen until Utah blew past them and it was too late. Their dreams of a Power 5 conference waved goodbye and they really had no other choice. (You get nothing if you wait for it, wait for it, wait for it.)
Burr’s duel with Hamilton is BYU leaving the Mountain West. Their time as an independent football team and the member of a bus league in all other sports can be equated Burr’s later life, where he spent years in obscurity until his death.
I wasn’t totally sure which Mountain West team should be Burr until the scene where Burr approaches Hamilton after his wedding:
Burr: I came to say congratulations!
Mulligan: Spit a verse, Burr!
Burr: …I see the whole gang is here…
Lafayette: You are the worst, Burr.
Yep, totally BYU.
George Washington • Utah Utes
The general of the Mountain West army, the Utes were kicking ass on and off the field. The Utes would win four conference titles and become the first non-AQ team to make a BCS bowl. They’d repeat the feat a couple years later and blow out Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.
They were the first college ever to have the number one draft pick in the NFL (Alex Smith) and NBA (Andrew Bogut) in the same year. Off the field they made major investments into athletics and academics. While other Mountain West schools were having their ups and downs, the Utes were a giant middle-finger to Bill Hancock and the BCS powers.
“I can’t be everywhere at once people. I’m in dire need of assistance.”
They’d eventually leave the Mountain West for greener pastures, their version of not seeking re-election and moving back to Mount Vernon.
King George III • WAC Commissioner Karl Benson
King George III singing “You’ll Be Back” to the upstart Americans immediately made me think of former WAC commissioner Karl Benson. Just imagine Commissioner Benson singing this after hearing news of The Airport Meeting and his best teams revolting against his rule.
Imagine him scheming The Project and how destroyed he was when it blew up in his face at the last moment. In an email to Utah State he’d write, “This has been a very emotional day for me — both on the professional and personal side.”
LOL, get bent King Karl! Da da da dat da dat da da da da ya da!
Marquis de Lafayette • TCU Horned Frogs
How does a ragtag midmajor conference that’ll never cower,
somehow defeat the AQ superpowers?
How do we emerge victorious from Bill’s quagmire?
Beat a bunch of teams, raising B.C.S. points higher?
Yo. Turns out we have a secret weapon,
a purple team you know and love who’s unafraid to step in.
They’re constantly confusin’, confoundin’ the Big 12 henchmen
Ev’ryone give it up for the Mountain West’s favorite fighting Texans!
Watch me tackling em! smackin’ em!
sacking em! I’m—
I go to Cali with Tank…
John Laurens • Wyoming Cowboys
“Yo, I’m John Laurens in the place to be
Two pints of Sam Adams, but I’m workin’ on three
Those redcoats don’t want it with me
‘Cause I will pop chick-a pop these cops till I’m free”
Drinking? Fighting? Reckless courage? Yep, that’s our Wyoming Cowboys. And who else but the Wyoming Cowboys would teach us the 10 Duel Commandments?
Laurens was always looking for a fight and kicked major ass throughout the Revolutionary War and then died in a meaningless battle after the war was over. Kinda like how the Craig Bohl Cowboys tend to put together good teams that lose to the likes of Eastern Michigan, San Jose State, and North Dakota.
Hercules Mulligan • Fresno State Bulldogs and Nevada Wolf Pack
The Project. A clandestine plan hatched by King Karl Benson, BYU president Cecil Samuelson, Utah State President Stan Albrecht, and Fresno State president John Welty. It would allow the WAC to strike back against the traitorous Mountain West and leave them in ruins.
After the Mountain West added Boise State to replace Utah, the WAC had been pushed around for the last time. Their survival plan was to convince BYU to leave the MW, place their Olympic sports in the WAC, and have football go independent with a scheduling agreement with the WAC. In turn, the Mountain West would be mortally wounded with Utah, TCU, and BYU gone. The WAC would now be in a power position and poach schools like San Diego State and UNLV from the Mountain West. How the tables have turned!
Boise State- who had been openly campaigning to join the MW for years– would now be joining a Mountain West dumpster fire. Albrecht famously emailed the group saying that Boise president Bob Kustra’s “world is crumbling around him and he is desperate.”
Little did they know, Fresno president Welty was playing the role of Hercules Mulligan- a spy behind enemy lines. He warned Mountain West powers know about The Project and used it as leverage to get an invitation to join the Mountain West.
Nevada joined Fresno in the double-cross and also got a Mountain West invite, similar to how Mulligan had a partner in his espionage, a Black Patriot named Cato. Cato served as Mulligan’s slave and was granted unprecedented access to the British as he wasn’t seen as a threat. (Cato wasn’t mentioned in the Hamilton musical.)
Samuel Seabury • Utah State Aggies
Utah State spent most of their WAC days as spineless loyalists for Karl Benson and BYU, similar to the weasely British Loyalist Samuel Seabury. After the Revolutionary War, Seabury was allowed to stay in the United States and actually did some important work with the Episcopal church. Similar to how Utah State was eventually allowed into the Mountain West after The Project blew up in their faces, and have actually been a pretty good conference member in football and men’s basketball.
Charles Lee • San Jose State Spartans
Charles Lee was put in charge of the Battle of Monmouth and failed miserably. Lack of communication (attack! retreat! attack! retreat!) led to confusion and mass casualties. George Washington would have to take over and clean up Lee’s mess. Lee would then get shot by John Laurens in a duel.
In summation, Lee sucked and brought nothing to the table. The San Jose State of the founding fathers.
Thomas Jefferson • Boise State Broncos
Thomas Jefferson doesn’t show up until the second act, prancing around the stage asking “What did I miss?”. He’s immediately installed as Secretary of State. A charmed life, similar to Boise State’s.
His fellow patriots are a little annoyed. While they were fighting the British in the Revolutionary War (the 9-team MWC fighting for AQ status), Jefferson was off having a great time in Paris (beating up on the hapless WAC).
Jefferson would go on to be the most powerful man in the United States, similar to how Boise State football would become the most powerful team in the Mountain West, and the original members would always resent him.
James Madison • San Diego State Aztecs
In the Hamilton musical, James Madison was portrayed as nothing more than Thomas Jefferson’s side-kick. Like how San Diego State played the role of side-kick when they tried to hitch their wagon to Boise State and join the Big East. Again, San Diego State tried to join the Big East. (I love typing that, it’s so absurd.)
Boise State would eventually renege on their agreement and the Big East was pissed. They sued Boise, requiring them to pay a $5 million exit fee. Boise filed a countersuit, arguing that the Big East they agreed to join no longer existed. It had a chance to get pretty ugly, but the suits were eventually dropped with Boise agreeing to pay a $2.3 million exit fee.
Meanwhile, the Big East made no effort to keep San Diego State in the fold. They were just like, “Nah, we’re good.”
In reality, Madison was actually a very influential figure in American history. He wrote the Bill of Rights, was known as the Father of the Constitution, and served as the fourth POTUS. The real version of Madison is a more fair comparison for the Aztecs. Their football team has won three Mountain West titles and the basketball team has been the most successful MW program by a considerable margin.
Philip Hamilton • UNLV Rebels
I had a hard time coming up with a good comparison for UNLV. Philip Hamilton was Alexander Hamilton’s son and UNLV is 50-115 all-time in the Mountain West, so that makes them the conference’s son? I guess?
Like I said, I had a hard time with UNLV football and I’m reaching here.
The Bullet • New Mexico Lobos
On first look, The Bullet just seems like an extra but she plays an important role in the musical. Everyone The Bullet interacts with dies. Reminds me a bit of the New Mexico athletics in the Mountain West: everything they touches dies.
Rocky Long “steps down” as football coach and goes on to build a juggernaut at San Diego State. Mike Locksley comes next and starts punching coaches, harassing female staff members (allegedly), and losing a shit ton of football games (2-26). Athletic Director Paul Krebs has a scandal of his own, embezzling $64,000 for a golf trip to Scotland for him, his family, and his buddies. He faced five felonies for stealing the money and trying to destroy the evidence. FIVE FELONIES!
They replace Locksley with Bob Davie, a TV announcer who wanted to run the option, but not really. Davie eventually gets suspended over allegations of assaulting players, obstructing a rape allegation, and frequently making racist comments.
Meanwhile, the once proud basketball program becomes a shell of its former self with lots of losing and multiple player suspensions. At one point a suspended player actually sued the university. A remodeled Pit can’t even re-open without fire alarms going off.
I could go on, but you get the point. Everything New Mexico touches dies (like their men’s soccer, beach volleyball, and skiing teams).
Angelica Shuyler • Gonzaga Bulldogs
The true object of our affection. The one that got away. Nothing was more exciting than those couple of days where it looked like Gonzaga basketball was moving to the Mountain West.
“The conversation lasted two minutes
Maybe three minutes
Everything we said in total agreement
It’s a dream and it’s a bit of a dance
A bit of a posture, it’s a bit of a stance
He’s a bit of a flirt, but I’m ‘a give it a chance”
You’ll never be Satisfied in the West Coast Conference, Gonzaga! Join us!
…and Peggie! • Hawaii Rainbow Warriors
The forgotten Shuyler sister is the forgotten Mountain West team.
The Mountain West consists of 11 schools that compete in 18 NCAA sanctioned sports… and Hawaii!
The Mountain West just signed a new TV contract that will pay each school $4 million a year to televise football and basketball games on CBS and Fox… not Hawaii!
There you have it, the Mountain West as characters from Hamilton. Apologies to Air Force, I couldn’t think of anything for you. The British Navy, I guess?