College Football: The Fallout Continues From Mountain West Expansion
The dominoes just keep falling.
Days after Fresno State and the University of Nevada-Reno announced that they were leaving the Western Athletic Conference for the greener pastures of the Mountain West Conference, another rumor has surfaced that may change the term "mid-major" for good.
According to several reports, including this one from Gil Lebreton of the Fort Worth Star Telegram, the Mountain West and Conference USA are apparently talking about putting a championship game together that would match the MWC champion against Conference USA's champion with the winner gaining an automatic BCS bid.
Lebreton says the MWC met with another league, that was believed to be Conference USA, in Colorado Springs, Colorado on Thursday night and a source told him, "You're on the right track. The lawyers have told the BCS that it's time to give someone else a chance."
If in fact this conversation really did take place, this could shake up college football as we've known it for the past several years.
What started as news breaking that BYU was going independent, at least in football, has morphed into something else entirely and it may force BYU to stay right where they are.
WAC commissioner, Karl Benson, confirmed that conversations had taken place between BYU and the WAC about bringing them to their conference in every sport except for football. That news originally broke on Colorado State's official twitter, but a statement was released saying the account was hacked and the university apparently had no control over what was being posted.
Turns out, that news was accurate according to the Salt Lake City Tribune who reported that the decision was official.
Just hours after that article was released, the Mountain West Conference used the plan they had in their back pocket and brought over Fresno State and Nevada to force BYU to make a decision. It was almost like a poker game that the MWC was winning. The Cougars threw out a big first bet and were called and raised by the MWC.
While Fresno State and Nevada quickly accepted the invite to a new conference, they weren't the first ones called. According to an open letter to the fans, Utah State athletic director Scott Barnes said, "At the point in time when Utah State was contacted by the MWC we had a binding agreement with the WAC and were well positioned with nine members, which included BYU. We were simply committed to uphold our agreement with fellow WAC members. We respectfully declined MWC interest and believed all WAC members would remain committed to our agreement."
Their loyalty, though seemingly misplaced, is admirable but I wonder if Barnes is now kicking himself for not taking the invitation when it was given?
The question now becomes, does BYU now have to go through with their bluff and play it out to the end, or do they fold their hand and admit defeat?
Benson has already admitted that talks between the two sides had broken down and has no idea what BYU plans to do at this point. They are apparently not waiting to find out how this plays out and have had conversations with three different schools. Sacramento State, UC Davis, and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
If the WAC was irrelevant before, I'd hate to hear what they'd be called now with those three schools in the mix. No disrespect to any of them, but they don't bring any fear to any opponent and it weakens the conference as a whole.
If Benson is trying to drop the conference into a Division II conference, he's headed in the right direction.
While BYU has yet to make their decision on staying in the Mountain West or going independent, the question of the conferences 12th member has been a topic of debate at the college football water cooler.
If BYU stays in the conference which, in my own opinion, is the best course of action for them, the MWC would be at 11 total members. With one spot open to allow them to split into two different divisions and create a conference championship game, the name that continues to be talked about is the University of Houston.
In fact, CBS Sports' Dennis Dodds is reporting, via Twitter, that Houston has been given an invite to the Mountain West and will accept the invite. Bringing them on board makes the conference stronger, especially if BYU remains in the conference.
The Mountain West lost the University of Utah but has replaced them with Boise State, Fresno State, Nevada and now apparently the University of Houston.
In the game of expansion, they have made the right moves at the right time and will reap the benefits starting in the fall of 2011.
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