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The MWC’s Quest for BCS Status

28 June 2010 Brett Richins 13 Comments

With the Big XII stating publicly that it will remain at 10 teams for the foreseeable future, it’s time to look at BYU’s Plan B – getting the Mountain West Conference into the BCS as an automatic qualifying conference.

In April the BCS made public the formula that it will use to determine whether or not a seventh conference will be admitted to join the PAC-10, Big XII, Big Ten, SEC, ACC and Big East.

We are currently in the middle of a four year evaluation period that began with the 2008 season and runs through 2011.

It is worth noting that even if Utah had elected to stay in the MWC after it added Boise State, it’s unlikely that the conference would have been in a position to earn its way into BCS automatic-qualifying status given the formula that the BCS has established for evaluating the non-AQ conferences.

The BCS formula consists of three criteria:

1) The ranking of the highest-ranked team in the final BCS Standings each year (if a conference does not have a team in the final BCS Standings, then its highest-ranked team is determined by the conference member that has the highest average ranking in the computer rankings used in the BCS Standings),

2) The final regular-season rankings of all conference teams in the computer rankings used by the BCS each year.

3) The percentage of the number of conference teams in the top 25 of the final BCS Standings each year.

A conference will become the seventh automatic qualifier if it finishes among the top six conferences in both No. 1 and No. 2 and if its ranking in No. 3 is equal to or greater than 50 percent of the conference with the highest ranking in No. 3.

Further, a conference will be eligible to apply to the Presidential Oversight Committee for an exemption if it, 1) finishes among the top six in both No. 1 and No. 2 and if its ranking in No. 3 is equal to or greater than 33.3 percent of the conference with the highest ranking in No. 3.

OR

2) If it finishes among the top seven in either No. 1 or No. 2 and among the top five in the other, and if its ranking in No. 3 is equal to or greater than 33.3 percent of the conference with the highest ranking in No. 3.

With the addition of Boise State, the Mountain West Conference as constituted for 2011 easily meets criteria No. 1 and No. 3. In fact the BSU for Utah swap actually gives the MWC a bump since BSU’s computer ranking the past two years has averaged a #7 ranking, while Utah has averaged a ranking of 14th.

Also consider that Boise State is poised to strengthen its average ranking in 2010, with the Broncos expected to start the season ranked in the top 5 and having a chance to potentially be the first non-AQ conference to play for a national title.

The MWC does fall short in the second criteria however. That’s because the performance of the schools in the lower echelon of the MWC significantly pulls down the overall BCS computer rankings of the conference. Currently the Mountain West ranks as the seventh conference in the computer rankings, significantly behind the Big Ten which strengthened itself with the recent addition of Nebraska.

So, it appears that BYU and the Mountain West Conference have two options in front of them.

1) It could increase its overall computer ranking by divesting itself of the statistical outliers and replacing them with schools that strengthen its rankings. Houston, Fresno State, Nevada and Tulsa are all programs that would increase the rankings. The schools that are dragging the rankings down include San Diego State, Colorado State, New Mexico, Wyoming and UNLV.

Simply adding schools to the mix would not be enough to get the conference over the bar for criteria No. 2. Which is why the MWC school presidents have opted to stand pat at the current time regarding expansion. At least two or three bottom feeders would have to be dropped as well.

Swapping out two or three schools could to the trick, but kicking schools out of the conference could be messy legally and be a public relations nightmare to boot. It would come across as a pure money grab, which it would be.

2) The second solution would be to petition the BCS Presidential Oversight Committee under the second exemption option. The MWC does currently qualify to apply under this provision since it currently ranks third among conferences in criteria No. 1, seventh in criteria No. 2 and third in criteria No. 3, ranking less than 10-percent behind the SEC.

There are some factors at play that could work in the MWC’s favor if it were to petition the BCS.

First, the gap between the Mountain West and the other non-AQ conferences is huge. That gap was further widened with the addition of Boise State.

Second, with the growing PR problems of the BCS and the talk of potential government interference, the BCS would have to strongly consider adding the MWC. Adding a conference that didn’t technically qualify could alleviate many of the public and legal pressures on the BCS. It would also bring into the fold the schools that have historically been billed as the “BCS Busters”.

Third, the MWC could also help its case by agreeing to a ramp up in BCS revenues, much as Utah did when it was invited by the PAC-10.

Fourth, the BCS is considering adding the Cotton Bowl to its line-up. It would not be surprising to see another bowl, such as the Holiday, be added in the future as well. This would allow a place at the BCS table for the MWC and increase opportunities for all BCS schools.

Fifth, it also doesn’t hurt the MWC’s case that ESPN/ABC now has the contract to air the BCS games. BYU has long been a media darling of ESPN, consistently delivering strong ratings for the network.

Its important to remember that if it were to attain auto-qualifying status, the Mountain West Conference would begin its BCS membership on essentially a two year probation. It would have to continue to perform in order to remain a BCS fixture. The question is what happens when BSU, TCU and BYU are knocking each other off?

For that reason don’t be surprised to see the Mountain West expand to 12 teams if it were admitted to the BCS. Adding three of the above-mentioned programs would strengthen the second tier of the conference and likely cement the MWC as part of the BCS. It would separate some of the schools into different divisions that may otherwise knock one another off each year. It would also obviously create the opportunity for additional revenue from a championship game.

As a BSC conference with a championship game, the Mountain West would also find itself in a much stronger position to renegotiate its current television deal, or at least be able to land a much more lucrative deal in the future.

In some ways, the MWC becoming an automatic-qualifying BCS league could be better for BYU than jumping to an existing BCS conference. BYU would continue to be the big fish, but now in a much bigger pond. It could control such issues as Sunday play and perhaps negotiate an opportunity to create its own TV network in the process.

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13 Comments »

  • YLife said:

    Nice article, Brett. Very well reasoned and informative. Thank you.

    There are good days ahead for BYU.

  • cory said:

    Tulsa would be a great addition. I didn’t think the MWC could kick anybody out of the conference?

  • Brett Richins said:

    Cory,

    It would be tough and messy, but it could be done. Doubt that it would be looked at seriously as long as the petition option looks promising.

  • Batman said:

    I expect NM and UNLV to be horrible the next few, SDSU and WY slightly improved, but still bad. CSU not great.

    No question, WY and NM should go and be replaced by stronger and larger market teams. This is literally millions of bucks we are talking about and there is no reason to give the BCS a reason to deny you, which they will. Are WY and NM worth that? NO. I favor replacing them with Houston and Fresno. Houston had a very good year last year, including winning against some big boys, and looks to have a pretty good team this year as well. I saw some analysis that said these were the best 2 teams to add.

  • Blue Blooded said:

    Great analysis Brett!

  • k said:

    Great Article! I think it would be awesome if this happened! More money if we were in the B12 but I think better overall if this were to happen.

  • Kealii said:

    Has anyone used the bcs criteria to determine where the other conferences would stand if they were examined under the same standard? I’m curious if the big east would meet all three items listed in the article.

  • Gary Jacobson said:

    You know, it’s just great to get insightful reporting, and knowledgeable comments, without the ire-built angst of Utah trolls chirping in to destroy the good feelings with their trash talk. I really enjoyed this commentary, and also the ones helping the Cougar faithful to know better the recruits coming in. Thanks!

  • Ben said:

    Brett, i’m sure you saw or read Tom Holmoe’s press conference the other day with Kyle Whittingham and Chris Hill where they discussed conference expansion. I found Tom’s responses to expansion questions interesting in that he strongly alluded to some sort of plan or something possibly being in the works. He was clearly intentional in that as well.
    What impressions did you have from the press conference?
    I think BYU’s biggest hurdle is not AQ status, but the conference’s lack of TV dollars. THAT is what has catapulted the school up North, is all the extra $ they’ll be getting towards facilities, recruiting, etc.
    I do believe this is a big problem and am very hopeful Tom is working hard at finding a way into the Big XII.
    How did you take his comments in the conference?

  • walt said:

    Staff-

    Last year I used to get your updates by e-mail. Then after the season was over I cancelled and now I want to subscribe again but I do not see anywhere on your site to do o; What’s the key to this?

    Thanks,

    Walt

  • Jared said:

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  • Chuck said:

    Inviting the four schools you mention boggles my mind. I keep hearing these schools being mentioned as a lift for the MWC. Have you been to these universities? Going to football stadiums in Nevada and Tulsa is like walking into a high school environment. Where you buy concessions at Nevada is a short walk right onto the field. Capacity at these stadiums is only 30,000. Houston is only 32,000. Only Fresno State has a decent stadium, but it only holds 41,000. Adding these schools would be like duplicating what we have with Wyoming (a school that definitely does not belong in the MWC, but is there only at the insistence of LaVell). My point? Hold on until we can lure bigger fish . . . or don’t expand at all. These four schools are definitely not the answer.

  • James Tills said:

    Dear Brett,
    Great article—as usual.
    I believe the best way to go is to appeal to the Presidential Oversight Committee for a waiver on criteria number 2, where the lower tier teams are dragging the Conference down.
    If granted and we become the seventh BCS Conference, then add Houston, Fresno State and Nevada to bring the Conference to 12 teams with two divisions and a championship play-off game. (Tulsa would be a good alternative for one of the three additions.) Houston would almost immediately become a rivalry game between TCU and Houston. BYU and Boise State would become rivalry games. The divisions would look something like:
    Northern Division: Wyoming, Colorado State, Air Force, New Mexico, BYU, and Boise State; Southern Division: Fresno State, SDSU, Nevada, UNLV, TCU and Houston.
    Until the other teams become more competetive (every few years), the championship game will probably feature BYU or Boise State from the North and TCU or Houston from the South.

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