The Case for the Mountain West Conference

Brian NelsonCorrespondent IJanuary 29, 2009

While many BCS fans have been quick to criticize the Mountain West Conference and its push for BCS admittance, it's also important to look at in context.

The MWC is not expecting to gain acceptance right away. This is just a posture to start the dialogue, move one step closer and ultimately make it that much easier in the future by articulating their case and presenting their argument following a breakout season.

Some may question this move but it is important to see it for what it is. First, Craig Thompson (MWC Commissioner) has to protect the interests of the MWC.

Utah is now coming off its second BCS Bowl victory and second undefeated season in five years without even a sniff of the the National Championship game.

For a school that fits well within Pac-10 geography and on the outskirts of the Big 12, with demonstrated prowess in other sports, perhaps Utah may be tempted in to join a conference without a ceiling if progress isn't made soon.

After all, Salt Lake is a decent market and one of the fastest growing in the country.

TCU is in a similar situation in the heart of Big 12 country, near an attractive Dallas market and coming off a 2008 season that found it ranked No. 7 in the final polls.

Could you imagine the MWC without these two schools? It is a matter of self-preservation and opportunism that Craig Thompson has to start showing tangible progress soon.

Second, the MWC does have a very good case. The MWC champions have been invited to the exclusive BCS party twice. In both contests, the MWC champion didn't just win, they looked dominant.

Which begs the question, if the other conferences are getting teams in that are markedly inferior, how can they justify keeping the MWC out?

For example, does any college football fan honestly think the VT-Cincinnati “BCS Bowl” was more compelling than TCU-Boise State? Were both former teams more deserving than the latter? Not at all.

If the second-best MWC team is more deserving of a BCS berth than the best ACC and Big East teams, something is wrong.

The MWC's best argument is to put the burden of proof back onto the other conferences. What have the elite six shown in the past five years that truly distinguishes them from the MWC?

Big East: Following Utah’s dismantling of Pitt in the 2004/2005 Fiesta Bowl, can they legitimately claim that their Champion is consistently superior? Honestly?

SEC: After Utah overpowered an Alabama team that went undefeated in regular SEC season play, can the SEC definitively say that the MWC doesn’t belong?

ACC: After improving to 2-9 this year all-time in BCS Bowl games, can the ACC really claim they are more deserving than a Conference 2-0 in the same venue?

Big 10: Can a Conference who is now 2-5 in BCS Bowl games since 2004/2005 claim supremacy over another that is 2-0 in the same time frame?

(Isn't Big 10 country a little concerned that Utah alone has as many wins in that period as their entire conference?)

Pac-10: The PAC made a huge statement this year in the Bowls but still ended 2-6 to the MWC. Claim to superiority?

Big 12: Now that we've seen Oklahoma lose 5 straight BCS Bowls, does the Big 12 really have a case to shut out the MWC?

If the MWC’s lack of tradition keeps them out shouldn’t this recent tradition keep Oklahoma out?

I am not wholly in favor of adding the MWC to the BCS mix (do they honestly add anything to the BCS?), but if the other conferences can claim automatic bids, then it is unfair to keep the MWC out.

Until the other conferences can prove on the field that the MWC doesn't belong, they have to start making inroads to let them in.

Obviously, the MWC needs to keep winning if it wants to make real progress. One season does not make a conference.

But the MWC has been climbing steadily and needs to keep trumpeting its success for others to start taking notice.

Here is a glimpse of the MWC champions and a few accomplishments over the last 5 years.

2004: Utah caps unbeaten season with a dominating win over Pitt in the Fiesta Bowl.

2005: TCU goes 11-1 including a road victory at Oklahoma. Shut out from the BCS.

2006: BYU finishes 11-2 with a 38-8 rout over Oregon. MWC finishes 3-1 in the Bowls.

2007: BYU finishes 11-2. MWC is 4-1 in the bowls.

2008: Utah finishes 13-0 with a dominating performance over No. 4 Alabama. Utah beats four ranked opponents, including the only team to defeat USC, claims No. 2 in the final AP poll and No. 1 in final computer rankings. TCU also beats No. 7 Boise State and finishes in the top 10.

Given the teams that have been invited to the BCS in the past, are these teams really that unworthy of an auto-bid?