Mountain West Explosion

Jim SpeerContributor IApril 24, 2010


While the Big Ten grabs all the attention for a possible expansion this off season, the Mountain West Conference should be amplifying its case for expansion as well.  In this article I write an open letter to commissioner Craig Thompson and urge him to expand the conference parallel with a Big Ten expansion.

Dear Mr. Thompson,

I propose to expand the Mountain West Conference by three schools.  This would increase the number to twelve schools, which would allow the conference to divide into two divisions of six schools. By doing so, it would setup for the creation of an end of season championship game.  Furthermore, a significant expansion to the conference would increase the likelihood of acquiring automatic Bowl Championship qualification.  As you know, an automatic qualification into the BCS system would put the Mountain West Conference among the NCAA’s elite conferences.


After the 2009 college football season, the Bowl Championship Series distributed $142.5 million of revenue from its five bowl games.  However, 81 percent of that $142.5 million will be distributed to the “big six” conferences; the SEC, Big Ten, ACC, Big East, Big 12 and Pac-10.  The other 19 percent ($24 million) will go to the remaining five FBS conferences; including the Mountain West Conference.  I do recognize the fact that 8 of the 10 teams that competed in the BCS should be entitled to 80 percent of the total payout; this is not the problem.  The problem is sharing 19 percent with four other conferences and Notre Dame (an independent member of the BCS).


Outside of the “big six” conferences, there are five conferences who represent 52 schools along with three independent schools who have not joined a conference.  This represents a great opportunity for the Mountain West Conference to increase its size from 9 schools to 12 schools.  There is good reason to add three schools instead of one.  I believe that the debate in choosing a single school to expand the conference would be a lengthy one.  The issue of time is important because the yearly evaluation that is used to determine which conferences will be awarded automatic qualification into the Bowl Championship Series is July 1, 2010.  In addition, trying to persuade a single school to jump ship on their current conference wouldn’t make sense unless it presented a great enough probability for something BIG.

Therefore, by adding three schools to the conference and establishing two conference divisions, the Mountain West can host an end of season championship game.  There are five current conferences that host their own championship games; three of them are “big six” conferences.  The other two conferences represent schools that have not yet competed in a BCS bowl game.  In short, the Mountain West and WAC conferences are underrepresented in NCAA FBS football because they are the only conferences outside the “big six” conferences that have been able to compete in BCS bowl games.

There are four schools that I believe should be considered added to the conference: Boise State, Fresno State, SMU and Houston.  Boise State represents the best option for an expansion.  They boast a 112 – 17 record (the best record of all FBS schools over the same time period) this past decade and have won 2 BCS bowl games in four seasons.  Fresno State’s current fan support and decent TV market make it a great option as well.  As for the two Texas schools, Houston and SMU, they represent a combined 4.5 million viewer TV market.  Furthermore, SMU’s football tradition includes 2 national championships and a recent season that successfully put them into their first bowl game in 25 years.


The Bowl Championship Series has recently signed ESPN to televise their prestigious bowl games for the next 4 years.  The new contract will add an additional $43 million in revenue each year to the funds that are distributed to the conferences.  The Mountain West Conference is already close to qualifying for an automatic BCS bowl berth.  With the addition of three teams you will be bolster a resume that is equal to that of the SEC, Big Ten, ACC, Pac-10, Big 12 and Big East.  Additionally, each school that is added will a new TV market and increased fan base.  All of which are needed to persuade a BCS committee who are dollar oriented.  Lastly, the conference championship game that will result out of a three team expansion will create an opportunity to generate additional television revenues off of the newly increased market size; and these revenues cannot be touched by the BCS nor can they be redistributed to the other conferences.

The time to expand is now commissioner.  This is an opportunity to shake up the college football system and fuel greater excitement into the 2010 football season!

Thank you,

From a proud MWC fan