Is the MWC going BSU fishing?

Mountain West Conference commissioner Craig Thompson thinks it’ll take five years to get the kind of postseason his conference wants.

If that postseason involves a full blown playoff, Mike Slive suggests that Thompson’s time frame is woefully short of reality.  As in “never”.

“I really don’t see it,” SEC commissioner Mike Slive said of a playoff in an interview with ESPN on Wednesday. “You know, based on the current makeup of presidents and chancellors and commissioners, I don’t see a full-blown playoff in the offing.”

Slive was part of a plus-one postseason proposal that didn’t gain momentum. When asked about the wait for a playoff system, Slive said: “Well, for as long as I’m here. There is a lot of discussion with the Congress and the President. The difficulty with the discussion is when you drill down and it’s very difficult to even see how it would work. There are issues in any kind of postseason format. It’s really a complex matter.”

Slive said it’s important to distinguish between his support of a plus-one as opposed to a playoff with more than four teams.

“A lot of people mistake my interest in the plus one for a playoff,” Slive said. “Because I’m not a playoff advocate. I thought the plus one was something that could be contained. And would work. And was in the best interest of our league. But it just didn’t go anywhere.”

As I keep saying, it’s not realistic for these guys to expect charity from the Big 6.  If the mid-majors want a permanent seat at the BCS table, they’re going to have to create the conditions on the ground that make the powers-that-be want to hold out the chair for them.

Which makes this post from ESPN.com’s Graham Watson (h/t Doc Saturday) intriguing to contemplate.

The Mountain West has been talking about expanding, conference commissioner Craig Thompson said, but it’s just been general conversation.

Thompson said Wednesday in his address to the media for Mountain West media days that the conversation of expansion comes up in nearly every meeting with directors, but that no specifics have been discussed.

I think it’s interesting — though not shocking — that the Mountain West Conference is looking at expansion. The conference is looking for a way to strengthen its BCS résumé and adding the right team would be a good move. Although Thompson was speaking in generalities, I think it’s fair to assume that Boise State would be at the top of the list should the conference expand. I mean, how many teams could really strengthen the conference’s BCS résumé?

Now the question is whether that’s something Watson came up with on her own – pure speculation, in other words – or whether it’s something that’s been prompted by actual chatter in the right circles.

Assuming for the sake of argument it’s the latter, it’s easy to see how such a move would benefit the MWC and Boise State.  It raises the competitive profile of both significantly.  It makes scheduling easier and cheaper, Thompson’s concerns notwithstanding.  (Some of what he worries about borders on the farcical.  Take a look at some of the schools that show up on the 2009 schedules of MWC members:  San Jose State, Sacramento State, Weber State (twice!), Texas State, Southern Utah and Nicholls State.  I think it’s safe to assume that none of those schools are going to be missed in a move to a nine-game conference schedule.)

The catch is that it’s not as much of a slam dunk on the economics side.  BSU’s average attendance last year was 32,275, which ranked 70th nationally.  Only three MWC schools drew more, so it wouldn’t hurt the overall numbers for the conference, but it wouldn’t exactly pull it into Big East territory, either.  Nor is it likely that the TV numbers for the MWC would be strengthened immediately as a result.

So it would remain something of a tough call.  The MWC could pursuasively argue that its competitive strength justifies a permanent BCS slot; the bowls would squirm over who might get stuck hosting a TCU-Cincinnati match up.

But if the MWC were to do this and claw its way into the BCS as a result, there’s one more thing to consider, and that’s what happens to the rest of the mid-majors in the wake of such a thing.  The Mountain West has already shown in its postseason proposal that it’s not interested in sharing with the other children, so the current distribution formula would be scrapped.  Would a newly-configured Big 7 be likely to guarantee a share of the loot and leave a potential BCS slot open to what’s left of the mid-majors?  And if it doesn’t, would that cause schools like Tulane to revisit their antitrust claims that resulted in the BCS opening up to the mid-majors in the first place?

I suspect the answers to those questions would be “no” and “yes”, respectively.  Which would no doubt lead to another interesting round of political debate, among other things.  Beyond that, it’s hard to say what would happen.

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4 Comments

Filed under BCS/Playoffs, It's Not Easy Being A Mid-Major

4 responses to “Is the MWC going BSU fishing?

  1. Ed Gunther

    As much as people ragged on them for selling out and signing the new BCS agreement, the Mountain West didn’t really have any other option – not taking the money might have given them more solid moral ground, sure, but solid moral ground isn’t going to get them what they want.

    The only way they’re going to become part of the BCS is if they start to consistently win a majority of their games against the BCS conferences, something that would be significantly harder without the BCS money. Growing their attendance and TV following (by a minimum of 25%) would help just as much, but that’s extremely unlikely.

  2. Boise is the #120th ranked media market. That’s lower ranked than Augusta, Ga. and Huntsville, Ala. They bring nothing to the MWC in terms of TV….except that the other team’s market ratings would rise by playing them.

    You would think that a MWC with Boise, Fresno and Nevada would make a ton of sense. But they don’t seem to be making any headway in that area.

    I think the next trigger event will be the Big East unraveling from the weight of all its various constituents. A 16 team b-ball league and an 8 team football league doesn’t make sense in either sport.

    If the b-ball only schools (mostly like minded private schools) were to splinter and merge with A-10 or some similar league, you could see the Big East football schools adding new members.

    Like Memphis, UCF, ECU, Navy, Notre Dame or others. If the Big East ever expands, CUSA’s re-alignment could come at the expense of MWC via members like TCU.

    In other words…the MWC should get its act together while they still have TCU. They are most certainly in the “one of these is not like the others” and therefore at risk.

    PWD

  3. Watson’s article was actually complete speculation. I covered it here: http://www.obnug.com/2009/7/23/959666/boise-state-rumored-to-be-involved And the local news in Boise covered it here: http://www.2news.tv/sports/51529827.html

    I think she was just going for pageviews with her headline. Too bad so many people picked it up.