The last time I spoke to Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson, he made it seem pretty clear that his league would fall short of meeting specific criteria to become an automatic qualifying conference for the last two years of the current BCS cycle. The reason: The bottom of the league is dragging the MWC down when it comes to the overall strength of the conference.
The San Diego Union-Tribune confirmed that with a report on Friday after obtaining a league document that showed where the Mountain West stood headed into the final year of the BCS evaluation process. Sure enough, the league falls short in one of the three required categories -- overall conference strength.
As it stands now, the Mountain West ranks No. 4 in the average rank of its highest-ranked team, ahead of the Big Ten, ACC and Big East. The MWC is No. 5 in the number and ranking of teams in the Top 25. But it is No. 7 in the average computer ranking of all teams in the conference. The Mountain West must be in the top 6 in this category to qualify. The league has an average rank of 63, well behind the Big East's average rank of 50.
It is going to be almost impossible for the league to jump ahead of the Big East this season, the final one in an evaluation process that began in 2008. That would leave an appeal to the BCS presidential oversight committee. And that brings me to the point of this post. The BCS should grant that appeal for the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons.
Why? First, it would go a long way toward showing that this indeed is an inclusive system, what with the Department of Justice inquiring about football being the only postseason in college sports without a playoff. It would go a long way when it comes to a potential lawsuit Utah's attorney general plans to bring, accusing the BCS of violating anti-trust laws. It would validate a league that has proved to be deserving of a spot in a BCS game. Indeed, the Mountain West has lost only once in its BCS appearances -- and that was TCU to Boise State, which will begin Mountain West play this season. Not only that, the league has been solid in postseason play, winning two straight Bowl Challenge Cups and four overall.
There are plenty of arguments against this happening. The Mountain West in 2012 will look nothing like it did when the evaluation process began in 2008. TCU and Utah, the two teams that have represented the Mountain West in BCS games will no longer be in conference in 2012. Neither will BYU, which has posted Top 25 finishes to help boost the league average in that category. But Boise State has been a flagship non-AQ team and that should make the Mountain West attractive to the BCS.
Hawaii, which joins in 2012, also has a BCS appearance. Nevada is on the rise. Fresno State has been in the national conversation before. Say a Mountain West team gets the AQ bid with four losses. Would that be more embarrassing than a Big East team that qualified with four losses this past season?
Then there is the money, another big reason why this is a long shot. Making the MWC an auto qualifier almost certainly would mean taking away an at-large berth from one of the bigger leagues. Taking away an at-large berth means taking away money, a scenario that would not sit well with those who control the BCS process.
If this were to happen, what about the other non-AQ conferences? They should still be eligible for an at-large berth, based on the current guidelines. But you would be hard pressed to find somebody who would argue that another league deserves an AQ bid over the Mountain West. The MWC has earned the right to at least get a spot in the BCS for the next few seasons because of its on-field play. Then the BCS can re-evaluate what it wants to do. Or maybe there will not even be a BCS when it comes time to re-evaluate.