Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Boise State to the Mountain West?

All the talk about conference expansion seems to have focused on the wrong leagues.

Sure, the Big Ten, Pac 10, and Big East are among the "notable" "power" conferences involved in talks about membership changes. There's no question that moves by one of the "notable" "power" conferences will set off a chain reaction of stuff happening.

However, the most significant and noteworthy move could come from outside college football's power structure. Such a move might cause a change in what we all think the power structure really is.

As June starts, we are approaching what could be a significant day in the history of the Mountain West Conference. The league meets next week, amid speculation that they will be looking to add Boise State to the already-formidable lineup.

Dr. Saturday has more on this, making it sound like it's pretty much a done deal if the conference goes through with the formal invite.

Let's not make a mistake about this. It's a football move. Doc explains as best he can.

... even rival presidents would have a hard time begrudging Boise a move that would mean more money, less travel, better competition and, if the stars align, a shot at an automatic BCS bid. As you may be aware, that title comes with a pretty significant bump in pay grade.

To recap, the Mountain West must pass the BCS' three-pronged test for an automatic bid to one of the big-money bowls, which takes into account a) The average rank of each conference's highest-ranked team in the final BCS standings; b) The average computer rank of the entire conference lineup at the end of the regular season; and c) A complicated point system that measures the percentage of each conference's lineup in the top 25 of the final BCS standings, all over a given four-year period.

For the next BCS negotiations, the four-year period in question will be 2008-11, and though the MWC's "Big Three" – BYU, TCU and Utah – have kept the conference in pretty good standing so far according to criteria a) and c), the bottom half of the league remains an anchor when it comes to the averaging the standing of the entire conference. By that crucial measure, the Mountain West ranks seventh; the BCS requires a top-six finish in all categories. (With likely exceptions for the Big Ten, Big 12, SEC, Pac-10 and ACC, of course, should the need ever arise – those carefully negotiated bowl tie-ins must be fulfilled, after all. Otherwise, based on the first two years of the ongoing evaluation period, the ACC would seem to be on particularly thin ice.) Adding Boise's nearly flawless record to the mix would dramatically increase the MWC's chances of making the cut; if nothing else, it would provide enough of a boost to increase their chances of being granted an exception, however farfetched that scenario may be. Above all, it makes the Mountain West a stronger conference on the field, and therefore a more marketable conference off it – certainly too good to remain in the television ghetto of Versus and the mtn.

The idea of the Mountain West stealing an automatic BCS bid is pretty hilarious. Even if they can't do it, the addition of Boise State gives them a pronounced top four of Boise State, TCU, Utah, and BYU. You have Air Force just outside that group, but perfectly capable of picking off any or all of those top four teams in the right year.

It's a football move, though. With all due respect to Boise's other athletic programs, the Mountain West is looking to boost its football profile, and they know they can't do it if they simply wait for New Mexico and UNLV to form more consistent programs. Wyoming isn't putting them over the hump, either.

The intention is obvious. The Mountain West wants to be stronger in the most important college sport you'll find.

To me, though, the most interesting offshoot of a Boise State invite to the Mountain West is its potential implications on the Big East and ACC.

Regardless of whether the Mountain West can swipe an automatic BCS bid, the league could fire the first shot in a historic run of expansion that could change the landscape of the sport. Without anything else happening, Boise State moving would apply a ton of pressure on the Big Ten and Pac 10, both of whom seem to want to expand to parts unknown. You've talked the game, and now the piddly little Mountain West has played the game before you could pull anything off. Better back up that big talk, or wind up looking pretty dumb in the end.

In essence, there would then be heat on the Big East and ACC, both of whom could get raided in expansion efforts, and both of whom could find it tough to stay in "automatic BCS bid" territory.

All because of Boise State.

Boise State could start the avalanche of conference expansion. Wow.

Imagine what would have been said to someone who uttered those words five years ago.

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