Rumor: Mountain West Conference To Expand To 12, Receive BCS Auto Bid

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Rumor: Mountain West Conference To Expand To 12, Receive BCS Auto Bid
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The latest rumor coming out of Washington DC is that the MWC has invited Boise State, Fresno State, and Nevada to join the nine team MWC.

I will reiterate: it's just a rumor. But given the growing number of rumblings, and the pragmatism surrounding this concept, it seems to have legs. At least at face value.

The only reason the MWC would ever expand is if they were somehow guaranteed an automatic seat at the BCS table.

So if there is any truth to this rumor, it is fair to assume that there is some degree of cooperation from the BCS.

At a cursory glance, this makes perfect sense. A beefed up MWC with four football powerhouses (all of whom have reached a top five ranking within the last 12 months), a 3-0 BCS Bowl record and now a conference championship game, would more than qualify the MWC 12 as a legit BCS conference.

So the practicality of it alone lends credence to the idea. Plus, a careful evaluation of the players involved might imply something may be in the works.

ESPN itself, the network who covers the BCS Bowl games and who dominates college football coverage, has shown a highly uncharacteristic interest in the MWC of late.

In fact, this week Kirk Herbstreit, Lee Corso, and College GameDay will be headed to Fort Worth to cover Utah-TCU on Saturday. This is now the third College Game Day visit to a MWC school in the last five weeks.

Congress itself has seemed relatively quiet of late despite the fact that TCU can arguably boast an undefeated record with a tougher SOS and a stronger resume than No. 3 Texas at this point.

Especially if the Frogs top Utah on Saturday.

Validity to the Speculation: Why it Makes Sense

I've heard from fairly reliable resources that the MWC was planning to announce the addition of Boise State after the season.

Last year at this time, the folks from Boise State were particularly vocal about gaining MWC admission. That talk has been hard to find of late, which leads to the conclusion that they've been adopted into the fold.

Utah AD Chris Hill, a very well-connected and widely respected (he hired Rick Majerus, Urban Meyer, and Kyle Whittingham) figure in the MWC has been atypically open about his willingness to take the Broncos in.

It's not a common thing for an AD to come out and say that.

The Broncos would be bringing a lot to the table. Their brand recognition and reputation alone will help further the MWC cause. Nevada and Fresno State would seem an upgrade to the middle tier.

While Boise has historically been weak in other athletic departments, Nevada and Fresno State seem much more established in the other venues. Fresno State is fresh off its 2008 College World Series National Championship.

Nevada was the WAC basketball regular season champion from 2004 through 2008, reaching a top 10 ranking in 2007 and finishing the season with a 28-4 record.

The MWC would also be gaining decently sized Reno, Boise, and Fresno markets. Markets that expand MWC coverage but also boast some of the faster growing areas in the country.

The league would likely be divided geographically. My guess is they'd go from West to East.

With San Diego State, Fresno State, Nevada, UNLV, Boise State, and Wyoming making up the western component.

And Utah, BYU, Colorado State, TCU, Air Force, and New Mexico shoring up the East.

This way, teams would have logical travel partners and natural rivalries (with a few exceptions).

The East would seem football heavy while the West would be stronger on the basketball court.

The concept also makes perfect sense from a legal perspective. The MWC and its famed plight for congressional support would be satisfied. Senator Hatch can rest easy and focus on resolving other ills of society knowing that his teams would have a much greater shot at a National Championship under this model.

As we speak, this conference alone would boast two top six teams, three top 15 teams, and four ranked teams. That's more ranked teams than the SEC. Twice as many as the Big 12. And more combined BCS Bowl victories than the entire ACC since 1998. Or the Big Ten since 2004.

The conference championship at this point would feature the TCU-Utah winner against Boise State. That's as compelling, if not more, than any other conference championship outside of Atlanta.

Certainly more exciting and more meaningful than anything seen in the Big 12 TitleĀ game since 2003.

As an MWC fan, I'd support this without hesitation. I think the BCS would be reluctantly supportive but take comfort knowing the anti-trust suits would be put to bed.

Granted, it's all speculation at this point, but if this did all come to fruition, here's my first guess at the top three winners and the top three losers.


Winners

Boise State: The Broncos are on par to complete their fourth undefeated season and possibly their third without a BCS invite. This conference allows them to dramatically improve their schedule and actually have their BCS fate determined on the field.

Nevada, Fresno State: A move to a BCS conference would be a huge upgrade to both of these programs.

MWC: Without question, the MWC will enlarge its TV market by expanding into three new coverage areas that also have to be some of the fastest growing markets in the country. Not to mention the guaranteed BCS paycheck that probably wouldn't have to be split with the other non-AQ conferences anymore.

Losers

Pac-10: The Pac has been crying for national attention as the lone horse out west. Despite the Pac's phenomenal season this year, having another BCS conference out west means more competition for recruits, votes, and tv coverage.

It also dims the chance of having another second BCS berth. (The Pac-10 hasn't had a second berth since 2002.)

Plus, if USC returns to dominant form, it would be markedly easier for teams like Utah, TCU, and BYU to get to the BCS than for most of the Pac-10 teams. Perhaps some western recruits might take note.

Big Ten: While the Big Ten has shown signs of weakness of late, it has managed to sneak in a second BCS berth year in, year out. Adding a seventh BCS conference would almost assuredly take that away.

Dan Hawkins: Left a great gig at Boise State to join a BCS conference in Colorado. Hawkins and the Buffaloes have struggled while the Broncos haven't skipped a beat.

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