In the late 1990's, The gang of 5 (BYU, Utah, Colorado State, Air Force, and Wyoming) hatched a plan to leave the WAC. They took the three best remaining TV markets/programs in the WAC and broke away to start their own conference.
(The gang of 5 are 5 prestigious, small population, mostly state schools who have collectively come to an understanding on the devistating cost of travel on an athletic program and have committed to stay together to minimize costs to try to get their members into the BCS. They are, in essence, a conference within a conference.)
The flight of the MWC schools left a gutted collection of floundering schools as the "new WAC" with little in common, crippling travel costs, and few options for generating revenue.
The move was condemned by many as illegal, but has managed to stand the test of time. The MWC now stands as the undisputed strongest non-BCS confernece.
But are they strong enough to become a BCS conference?
The Criteria for conference inclusion in the Bowl Championship series
"The champions of the Atlantic Coast, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10, and Southeastern Conferences will have annual automatic qualification for a BCS game through the 2013 regular season, based on mathematical standards of performance during the 2004-2007 regular seasons.
The 2008-2011 regular seasons will be evaluated under the same standards to determine if other conferences will have annual automatic qualification for the games after the 2012 and 2013 regular seasons. The champions of no more than seven conferences will have annual automatic berths.
If the BCS continues under the same or similar format, conferences will be evaluated on their performances during the 2010-2013 regular seasons to determine which conferences will have automatic qualification for the bowls that will conclude the 2014-2017 regular seasons."
"Each conference will be evaluated over a four-year period based on the three elements: the average rank of the highest ranked team, the average rank of all conference teams, and the number of teams in the top 25. Bowls' contractual agreements with host conferences will remain in place."
We don't know any of the specifics though. How wins are weighed and whatnot. That said, it hasn't stopped people from speculating on that criteria and how conferences are faring in meeting it.
Bleacherreport scribe Crayton is doing a series on the the math. In his latest article in the series he speculates among other things that the MWC is not likely to get in as constructed as last year's strong finish appears to be something of a high water mark.
All numbers used in this report are pulled from his article.
At a year and a half through the current 4 year evalauation period, his math suggests the following.
Big 12 (0.668)
Big Ten (0.582)
Big East (0.486)
with .500 being the assumed cutoff for a conference to move up to BCS membership.
He theorizes that the addition of one reasonable MWC expansion candidates with a top 25 record --- either Boise or Houston --- might push the MWC over the .500 threshold.
I think that is possible, but I consider the math more theoretical than conclusive as (as I understand it) assumptions are being made on how the 3 criterias are being weighed.
Lets assume a Boise addition helps the MWC over the BCS threshold
Let's say the MWC adds Boise as it's 10th member, clears the threshold for BCS inclusion and the MWC gets full automatic qualifier BCS shares in 2012 & 2013.
They still have to pass muster in 2012 & 2013 to be in the BCS in 2014! With Boise in the conference it is very possible that the MWC could beat up on each other enough to fall below the threshold and be back to square one.
What if the weakness at the bottom of conference is heavier weighed than speculated?
If I ran a BCS bowl and wanted to keep lower end schools out, I'd insist on a weighed criteria for conferences to heavily punish conferences with an abundance of poor performers.
Quite simply, I wouldn't care if I lose out on BYU to avoid having to invite Wyoming, San Diego State, or some other poorly supported program to my...lets say...Sugar Bowl.
The average rank may be weighed as the heaviest of the 3 criteria.
With poor performers New Mexico (-0.674), UNLV (-0.474), SDSU (-0.714), and Wyoming (-0.396), it is possible than any new addition would not carry the MWC over the threshold --- or keep them there.
Which opens a whole new question.
Would the Gang of 5 bail on the lower end MWC members for BCS inclusion?
For a second let's not get lost in the legality or integrity of it, as neither stopped the Gang of 5 the last time.
New Mexico, UNLV, and San Diego State are only in the MWC for markets. They are the weak sisters added to help generate TV revenue.
It actually makes a lot more sense in term of exposure to bring in Houston in their stead in media terms. That makes the MWC a Mountain and Central time-zones conference which gives their schools greater TV exposure with earlier games.
What options might the Gang of 5 have?
Consider the following numbers:
0.910 Boise St
0.147 Air Force
0.054 Fresno St
0.021 Colo St
Now the Big 3 in the MWC are certainly not going to be that highly rated at the end of the evaluation period as they will beat each other up more in conference.
Houston, Fresno, & Tulsa could be effectively competing in a 3 way heat for the last two spots in a "new MWC".
Geographically Houston and Tulsa would have an edge over Fresno as a reshuffling of CUSA could lead to the emergence of a new western CUSA "TCU/Boise"-level power. Additionally,the WAC is a poorly managed conference, so the loss of Boise would likely lead to a LA Tech loss and a forced addition of an FCS school which would further hurt that conference's esteem.
How it might work out
Houston would add another major market allowing the MWC to let San Diego go and still have a good collection of markets. UH has an improving academic reputation. With their large research budget they are in the lead to become the third tier 1 school in Texas behind UT and TAMU.
Tulsa appears on the verge of putting up good numbers for the entire evaluation period and is a good academic school and basketball school. There would be little resistance to their admission from BCS schools.
The New MWC?
The inclusion of Wyoming (the lowest ranked member of the Gang of 5) might be problematic, but could be worked around. If Wyoming played as an independent in football, they could play all of the MWC schools OOC and still be a member of the conference in all other sports sharing in the revenue there.
There is nothing to say that any non-BCS MWC contract with a bowl game could not offer a bowl the MWC #X ...or Wyoming.
In time Wyoming could build up to a point where it might make BCS sense to add them as a football playing member, but if needed to protect their BCS status, the MWC could always give them the boot and add say a resurgent SMU (under June Jones).
It just creates a lot of flexibility.
That would give a workable, but not ideal 8 member football conference with 9 for basketball. Adding a 10th non-football member would make a lot of sense for scheduling. To me, the sensible choice would be Creighton.
They are a well respected private with a history with Tulsa and are the basketball powerhouse of the Missouri Valley Conference drawing over 12,000 a game over a multi-year period.
The New MWC (by travel partners?)
Boise - Wyoming
UTAH - BYU
Air Force - Colorado State
Creighton - Tulsa
Houston - TCU
I'd love your feedback...