Every school that is not part of a BCS conference has one goal: become part of a BCS conference. So far, the only way schools have found to get in is to exit Conference USA for the greener pastures of the Big East.
The Mountain West Conference is trying to get all of its schools into the BCS; unfortunately, the BCS doesn’t say exactly what they need to do to get in.
Based on the little we know about the evaluation process, it appears the Mountain West may need a little push to get over the top in their climb to join the group of conferences who get to send their champions to a BCS game automatically—and that push can only come from Boise State.
The rules set up to evaluate which conferences will get BCS auto bids will be based on the 2008-2011 seasons. We know the factors they are based on: (1) the highest ranked team in the conference, (2) the number of ranked teams in the top 25, and (3) the average computer ranking of all conference members.
However, these rules leave out a few details.
It seems the BCS prefers to not say exactly how the numbers are crunched. The public is left to wonder if equal weight is given to all three factors or whether there is some kind of formula. Would they need to be as good as another AQ conference, or would being nearly as good qualify them?
The BCS rules don’t say, and sadly, Orrin Hatch didn’t care to ask the BCS leaders when he had the chance this summer.
Even if we don’t know exactly what the formula is, Ben Prather claims to have something close to what the BCS will use. The results for 2008, the first of the four evaluation years, are below:
BIG 12 0.9819
BIG TEN 0.6689
BIG EAST 0.5259
After one year, the MWC is currently the fifth-best rated conference, although there are three more years' worth of numbers yet to come. After 2008, if the MWC were to add Boise State, it appears they would help the MWC’s numbers, but their addition wouldn’t change the MWC’s overall ranking.
After the losses by BYU and Utah this weekend, it appears much more likely that by the time 2011 rolls around, the MWC may need the numerical push Boise can offer.
During the August media days, MWC commissioner Craig Thompson explained the Mountain West’s position: "Now, if conversely a team were to come in and really strengthen the BCS cause, that would be reason for focus. It's something that we've looked at. We have said if there’s a way we can quantify and prove that by doing these two steps that gets us closer to an AQ, then we'd look at it differently.”
A reporter then directly asked about Boise: "And Boise’s record hasn’t given you that motivation? What they give you numerically?"
Thompson concluded: “I hate to even go down that road, but we’ve looked at a number of models, and there was no one there who with their numbers would put us over the top.”
Clearly, if the MWC can qualify on its own for an automatic BCS bid, they would prefer to not add another mouth to feed. The addition of Boise would mean all revenue would be split 10 ways instead of nine.
If, however, the addition of Boise comes with the guarantee of extra BCS dollars, all the schools will profit from the change.
What would it take for the Mountain West to be just close enough to a BCS bid that adding Boise State makes the difference? It would probably take a scenario where the MWC had a good year, but not a great one; where there is more than one ranked MWC team ranked in the top 25, but none in the top 10.
Boise would need to have a great year and add their high ranking to the MWC numbers, just as Louisville was allowed to do for the Big East in 2004.
Looking at the polls three weeks into the season, this is exactly the situation Boise State finds itself in now. Although it’s early, if the season ends with BYU and TCU ranked in the top 25, but not top 10, and Boise ranked in the top 10, the computer numbers will likely force the MWC to take a serious look at inviting Boise after the 2009 season.
This will allow them to play their final year in the WAC during 2010 and join the MWC in 2011, in time for final year of the BCS’ conference evaluation.
It would still be a risk to add Boise in the middle of the evaluation period. There would be no guarantee that adding them would get them into the BCS, since the invitation would have to be extended after 2009, only halfway through the four-year process.
However, looking at the numbers after week three, it appears that Boise is in a much better position to get an invitation from the Mountain West Conference than they were a month ago.
Boise would jump at the chance to join the Mountain West, with or without a BCS bid. Bob Kustra, Boise State President, has been quoted as saying, “if we could hook up with the Mountain West, which has excellent competition, which has considerable academic quality, it would be a good match for us."
Even WAC commissioner Karl Benson acknowledges Boise’s desire to upgrade their competition and revenue by joining the MWC. ESPN quoted him this summer as saying that Boise flirtation was “distracting and disappointing at times, but I think that the interest shown by Boise State for the Mountain West has been done in a upfront manner, and that is appreciated."
Of course, this is all quite speculative until we see what the polls look like at the end of this season. Boise may look ready for an invite after three weeks of the season, but then again, two weeks into the season BYU was in a position to make a run at a national title, so things can obviously change quickly in the college football season.