COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — The Mountain West Conference and Conference USA say they are combining their football programs to form a 22-team league.

The new conference will spread across five time zones from North Carolina to Hawaii.

Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson says the leagues made the move to join instead of waiting for teams to be poached or otherwise affected by conference realignment.

"The potential of this association is very exciting," Conference USA Commissioner Britton Banowsky said. "By taking an innovative approach, we feel we can offer tremendous opportunities for exposure and stability without breaking up the regional rivalries that truly make up the college football tradition."

The conferences did not say when the merger would take place, nor what the new association would be called.