The Mountain West Conference will hold its annual meetings June 6-8 in Jackson, Wyoming and the eyes of the college athletics world will be watching. The big question at hand is whether or not the conference will invite Boise State University to be its 10th member.
Although its a decision that affects all sports, the decision will primarily be made based on football, the top revenue producing sport for most universities, including those in the Mountain West.
There are three reasons the Broncos should receive an invite from the MWC this month:
1) Adding Boise State strengthens the league’s argument for inclusion as a automatic qualifier in the Bowl Championship Series.
The MWC may well be on the verge of becoming the seventh member of the BCS for 2012 and many believe that adding the Broncos in 2011 will allow the conference to reach the tipping point for admittance. We are currently in the middle of a four year evaluation period by the BCS that includes 2008 through 2011.
Last month the BCS revealed the criteria it uses when evaluating conferences to be included as automatic qualifiers for the money and prestige that goes with BCS membership. According to BCS Executive Director Bill Hancock the key ingredients to the secret sauce include (1) the ranking of the highest-ranked team in the final BCS standings each year, (2) the final regular-season rankings of all conference teams in the computer rankings used by the BCS each year, and (3) the number of teams in the top 25 of the final BCS standings each year.
By adding the Broncos for the 2011 athletic year, the Mountain West can count Boise State’s success on the field from 2008 through 2010 in the Western Athletic Conference as its own, just as the Big East did when it added Louisville from Conference USA a few years ago.
Boise’s success includes top 25 finishes in each of the last two years and a BCS bowl victory this past January that resulted in the Broncos finishing the year ranked in the top six in both the BCS standings and human polls. Add in the fact that the Broncos are poised to start the 2010 football season ranked in the top three and have a legitimate chance of playing for a national title.
Even if by adding the Broncos the Mountain West falls short of the BCS formula, the MWC could still get an invite to become an automatic qualifying conference. The BCS has received considerable public criticism and congressional scrutiny for its practices that many feel are anti-competitive and may even violate anti-trust laws. By inviting the schools that are typically considered the main “BCS-Busting” threats the organization could alleviate a considerable amount of pressure on itself for the foreseeable future.
In order for Boise State to compete in the Mountain West Conference in 2011 they must notify the Western Athletic Conference of their intentions to change affiliations by July 1 of this year. So if the invite does come during the current BCS evaluation cycle, it will have to come this month.
2) A step to a 12 team league.
Even if the MWC is stonewalled by the BCS after inviting Boise State, the move could be the first step toward a 12 team league and a lucrative championship game that could potentially be carried by a major network. A natural partner would be CBS.
By adding programs such as Fresno State and Houston the conference would also be able to reduce its perception as a top-heavy league. The Bulldogs and Cougars could join the Air Force Academy as a nice second tier of programs that have shown the ability to hold their own against BCS competition over the years.
The addition of Houston would make sense because it would add another Texas team to pair with TCU, thereby increasing the exposure of the MWC schools to the huge talent pool in the Lone Star State. It would also deliver a top five television market to the Mountain West, a factor that could be beneficial when negotiating future TV contracts.
The addition of Fresno State would bring in a program that has developed a strong rivalry with Boise State and a football program that has a solid reputation of playing anyone, anywhere and having success doing so.
A 12 team league that included Boise, Fresno and Houston would increase the leagues credibility. The addition of these teams along with a championship game each year on a major television network would increase the league’s visibility. All of which would increase its chances at becoming an auto-qualifying conference in 2016.
3) Protection from predators.
The addition of Boise State would be a key preemptive move in the current environment of speculated conference expansion and realignment. If the MWC were to lose one of its top three football programs, Boise State would play a key role in the survival of the conference.
The MWC doesn’t have the luxury of taking a wait and see approach and then find itself without one or more of its top football programs. Bringing in Boise now would make the devastation of losing Utah or BYU less painful and provide a lynch-pin to rebuild around.
The addition of the Broncos could also cause any school thinking of defection to take pause. Could the addition of BSU create a situation that a future invite to the BCS would be considered just a formality? If so, could a team thinking of leaving decide that its chances of reaching a BCS Bowl in the MWC easier than moving to the Big XII or PAC-10?
The situation and timing is now right to add the Broncos. All eyes will be on the MWC the next seven days.