The year was 1863.
Southern forces, under Robert E. Lee, faced a tough task in stemming off an invasion of Union troops, led by General John Hooker.
The Southerners were outnumbered. They had fewer supplies. And, they faced a brave and determined foe.
So, what did Lee do? In a move that still astounds military historians today, he split his force against the larger foe.
T hen he attacked.
The results? A resounding victory at the Battle of Chancellorsville.
Well, the year is 2010. And, while it is certainly not as important as the American Civil War (otherwise known as the War of the Rebellion or the War of Northern Aggression, depending on which side of the Mason-Dixon line one hails from), storm clouds are gathering in the world of college football.
Those clouds portend bad mojo for the Mountain West.
Well armed foes are on the move.
The Big Ten (plus Uno) Conference is making noise about invading other BCS foes in order to build up to 12, or even 16 teams.
Other BCS conferences are also pouring over strategy tables, figuring out how to slice and dice the college football map to gather the most territory and television revenue.
The “little” conferences, the Mountain West, Conference USA, and WAC, are supposed to just sit there like pawns on the big guys' chessboard, waiting to see what happens.
Which means they’ll just get their good parts carved off, and be left to rot like carrion on the beach of big time football life.
It doesn't have to be that way. The Mountain West should take a page out of Robert E. Lee’s book.
Audaciously attack in the face of the enemy.
If done properly, a Mountain West expansion could secure that prized cow. A BCS bid.
As such, it would allow the league to tear up its current television contract, renegotiating to increase the spoils of war that emanate from the networks chest of booty.
So, how to go about it?
Secure the left flank. Grab Boise State from the WAC.
Sure, they suck at all other sports except football. Their field is small. And the blue turf (yuk).
But, they have become a presence on the gridiron, virtually guaranteeing to add some beef to the Mountain West football line-up.
They also make geographical sense, being a natural rival for the Mountain West schools on the front range, including Utah, BYU, Air Force, Colorado State, and Wyoming.
Secure the right flank. Grab Houston from Conference USA.
Houston brings not only an up and coming football program, but also NCAA tourney quality men’s and women’s hoops.
Houston also provides a good rival to TCU and New Mexico in all sports, including quality baseball, an important component of those schools sport programs.
T he school is obviously situated in the huge Houston market, allowing the league to poach into that lucrative area to some extent.
Then audaciously attack. A presumptive strike.Take and hold the high ground.
Grab Colorado from the Big 12. I know, I know. People will say, “Colorado? No way.”
I say…"Yes, way”. Think about it. Why not?
It makes sense from a market standpoint. Colorado is currently the odd duck in the Big 12, both geographically and culturally. They would be a fine fit for the Mountain West (heck, the state license plate even features the Rockies).
The Buffs would have built-in rivals with Colorado State and Air Force (indeed, they already play Colorado State annually). The move would lock up both the fast growing Denver and Colorado state markets.
They would retain a presence in the fertile recruiting ground of Texas, since TCU and Houston would be there.
What about money?
Well, if the attack is successful, the league will be able to rewrite its TV contracts, and also become a BCS conference.
The money would be there.
The Mountain West would have a firm hold on the major market cities of Salt Lake, Denver, and Las Vegas, the mid-market cities of Boise and Albuquerque, a major presence in the huge markets of DFW and Houston, and a presence in San Diego.
The move would create a virtual lock on the fast growing western states of Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and Idaho, securing a major presence in the fast growing states of Texas and New Mexico. They'd also have a presence in Southern California.
Advertisers just love the demographics, and population increases in these areas.
Thus, as previously mentioned, the money should be there.
The Mountain West should take a shot. Expand to 12. Grab some teams.
Don’t be afraid to take on the big ol’ 800 pound gorilla called the Big 12.