MWC denied AQ exemption

The presidential oversight committee did more than approve a four-team playoff at its meeting Tuesday.

It also squashed any slim hopes the Mountain West had of becoming an automatic-qualifier conference for the final two years of the BCS. The committee denied the league's request for an exemption, which would have given it an automatic spot in the BCS this season and next.

"We made a very compelling case on behalf of the Mountain West," commissioner Craig Thompson said in a statement. "It was based on clear performance metrics and the prior precedent established by the BCS in awarding automatic qualification. Unfortunately, the presidential oversight committee decided against granting us the AQ exemption."

The news is not much of a shock, though there were those who did not expect a ruling to be made at the meeting Tuesday. But given the rapid nature of the decision, one has to believe there was not much in the way of real discussion about the possibility of letting the MWC in with the big boys.

After all, the league has already lost Utah, BYU and TCU, which gave the Mountain West nearly all of its Top-25 finishes and BCS appearances between 2008-11. Boise State joined last season, so its BCS performance also was used to argue for inclusion as an AQ. But the Broncos have agreed to join the Big East in 2013, so they are goners after this year, too.

While the Mountain West fell short in meeting the criteria to be awarded AQ status, its next option was to try to get a waiver from the presidential oversight committee, citing its performance over 2008-11 and the way the Big East was granted AQ status as well.

There is no question the Mountain West has been home to some groundbreaking football, one of only two non-AQ conferences to get a team into a BCS game. We can sit here and think about what could have been, considering the league has lost three teams to bigger conferences -- two of them to power conferences.

But it really would have been hard to justify automatic entry for a league that is losing all of its best teams.