Mountain West Conference's Bid for Equality Denied by Major Conferences

The RantCorrespondent IJuly 11, 2009

The Mountain West Conference has been in the spotlight of national sports news lately, for its failed bid to break through the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) barriers.

The Mountain West feels they are deserving of an automatic bid in the BCS, as they should. Last year the Utah Utes made an impressive and improbable run at an undefeated season and a National Championship only to be shunned from the BCS Title game, and into the Sugar Bowl vs. Southeastern Conference (SEC) powerhouse Alabama. The Utes smashed favorite Alabama, in a romping that left many wondering if the Utah deserved to be in the National Championship Game vs. Florida.

The Mountain West finished with two teams in the top 10 of the final AP voting, No. 2 Utah and No. 7 TCU, which tied them with the SEC for most of any conference. The Mountain West also finished with three teams in the top 25, including No. 25 BYU, which was tied for fourth among the top conferences. Not to mention, the underrated MWC went 6-and-1 during the regular season vs. the Pac-10, and finished with the best record, 8-and-5, against BCS schools.

After years of debate for a playoff system, Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson believed it was time for the MWC to get the respect it deserved and formally propose a playoff system.

The Mountain West’s proposal was very detailed. First, a conference would qualify for an automatic bid only if the teams have a winning percentage of at least .400 in games against the current qualifying leagues over a two-year period. This would mean the MWC would be the seventh conference to have an automatic bid starting next season.

Additionally, a 12-member committee would chose which teams receive an at-large bid and would be in charge of seeding the eight-teams chosen for the playoff.

The Sugar, Orange, Rose and Fiesta bowls would each host the four first-round playoff games. The four bowls would also be given the chance to host the semifinals and championship game in the following two weeks.

Finally, the MWC proposed for the 11 major conferences and Notre Dame to have equal representation in the BCS presidential oversight committee, and for revenues to be distributed equally among all conferences.

Undoubtedly, the MWC proposal was the best proposal to date, but was ultimately shutdown by the 10 major conferences and Notre Dame.

“The Mountain West appreciates the thorough review that each conference gave our reform proposal,” said Commissioner Craig Thompson in a statement. “However, the MWC continues to believe that there are fundamental flaws in the BCS system that need to be addressed”.

Days later, the Mountain West reluctantly signed the BCS television agreement with ESPN, putting any major changes on hold until after the 2013 season.

“The Mountain West believes it has no choice at this time but to sign the agreements. If a conference wishes to compete at the highest levels of college football, and the only postseason system in place for that is the BCS, no one conference can afford to drop out and penalize its football programs and student-athletes.”

The statement by the Mountain West could not be any clearer; the MWC had no choice.

If the conference did not sign the agreement, it would hurt the teams in the MWC for numerous reasons: The conference would also not receive any money from the BCS and in a recession, conferences can not afford to miss out on at least $9.5 million per season. Moreover, recruiting top players to play in the Mountain West would take a dramatic hit, thus causing the conference to play at a much lower level and hurting its chances at playing in bowl games.

"The Mountain West will continue its efforts for change, including a request for dialogue with representatives of the BCS," University of Utah president Michael Young said. "Our goal is to ensure the eventual outcome of these endeavors is what our universities and student-athletes need, what the vast majority of American sports fans want, and what is long overdue: an equitable system."

The ball is now in the Mountain West’s hands. The conference seemingly has a four-year tryout to prove it belongs with the other conferences. If the conference can compete at a high level yearly, with teams in the top 25 and winning bowl games against the BCS schools, then in 2014 the BCS will have no choice but to change its current dubious system.