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Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Updated: March 5, 3:45 PM ET
MWC reveals playoff proposal to BCS

ESPN.com news services

NEW YORK -- The Mountain West Conference wants to lead the fight for a major college football playoff.

The MWC presented the BCS with a proposal Wednesday to create an eight-team playoff system that would allow greater access to the national championship game to teams outside the six most powerful leagues.

Commissioner Craig Thompson and four university leaders from the MWC announced details on a conference call and the entire 2½-page proposal was posted on the league's Web site.

"I will put this as bluntly as I can," said Tom Buchanan, University of Wyoming president and chairman of the MWC board of directors. "We all believe that change is needed. The current system is not fair and somebody needs to stand up and say that and ask for dialogue amongst all the parties involved.

"Our goal is to find a system that is best for college football."

The next BCS meeting is scheduled for April in Pasadena, Calif.

"I would strongly suggest this will be a conversation topic," Thompson said.

Thompson would not speculate how the proposal will be received, but the chances of it being met with anything other than a resounding "No thank you" from the commissioners of the six automatic qualifying conferences seem remote -- at best.

"We have received the Mountain West proposal," BCS coordinator and ACC commissioner John Swofford said in a statement. "Some of these ideas or similar ones have been addressed before in BCS meetings. We will make sure that the proposal has a full airing by the commissioners and presidents, and we will respond to the Mountain West at the conclusion of those discussions."

The Bowl Championship Series last summer shot down a proposal brought by Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive that would have created a four-team playoff.

One of the reasons commissioners from the Big East, Big 12, Pac-10 and Big Ten gave for being against the so-called plus-one model Slive presented was a fear that any playoff system would inevitably expand.

Even in the SEC and Atlantic Coast Conference, which also supported a plus-one, there are no signs university presidents want an NFL-style playoff system.

Meanwhile, fans and many members of the media grow more vocal in support of a playoff each time the current BCS format, which gives only two teams a chance to win a national title in the postseason, fails to produce totally satisfying results.

Now, the Mountain West is vowing to be an advocate for those frustrated by the BCS.

"This is not a gesture on our part," San Diego State University president Stephen Weber said. "There is a fundamental unfairness here that I think the whole country is aware of and somebody's got to stand up and confront that unfairness."

The conferences with automatic access to the five BCS games are the Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, SEC, ACC and Pac-10.

The call for change comes after a season in which MWC champion Utah was the only unbeaten major team but was never seriously in the running to play in the BCS title game. Florida beat Oklahoma for the championship, while the Utes finished No. 2 after beating Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.

The MWC's proposal has four parts. The first creates a new way to determine which conferences receive automatic bids to the big-money bowls. The current criteria weigh the BCS rankings of teams in each league.

It's a system that makes it difficult for the Mountain West, Western Athletic Conference, Conference USA, the Mid-American Conference and Sun Belt to earn an automatic bid because those teams usually don't fare as well in the major polls. The BCS standings rely heavily on the USA Today coaches' poll and the Harris Interactive poll.

Under the MWC's proposal, a conference would qualify for an automatic bid if its teams have a winning percentage of at least .400 in games against the current automatic qualifying leagues over a two-year period.

Using that standard, the MWC would join the other six leagues as automatic qualifiers starting next season.

Part two of the proposal suggests doing away with the BCS standings and creating a 12-member committee to pick which teams receive at-large bids, and to select and seed the eight teams chosen for the playoff.

The BCS has previously discussed using a selection committee to determine which teams play for the national title and the idea was dismissed.

Under the MWC's proposal, the four current BCS games -- the Sugar, Orange, Rose and Fiesta bowls -- would host the four first-round playoff games. Another BCS bowl would be awarded to a current non-BCS game and would host the lowest ranked of the 10 teams selected in a game with no championship implications.

The semifinals would be played about a week later, with the current BCS bowls given the opportunity to host those games.

The championship game would be played a week after that, and again the current BCS bowls would be given the opportunity to host.

While bowl organizers from the Fiesta, Sugar and Orange bowl have said they would be open to a playoff format, the Rose Bowl -- which has a long-standing and profitable relationship with the Big Ten and Pac-10 -- has been resistant to such change.

The final part of the MWC's proposal calls for each of the 11 major conferences and Notre Dame to have equal representation on the BCS presidential oversight committee and for revenues to be distributed equally among all leagues.

Currently, the five non-BCS conferences have one vote when the BCS makes decisions and those leagues receive far less revenue from year to year, unless one of their teams earns a spot in a BCS game.

The BCS agreed to a new, four-year TV deal with ESPN last year that will go into effect in 2010. That deal was negotiated using the current BCS format. While ESPN has said it would not stand in the way if the BCS wanted to change, the new deal allows the BCS to put off making any drastic changes until at least the 2014 season.

"This is a matter for the BCS and it's therefore inappropriate for us to comment," ESPN spokesman Josh Krulewitz said Wednesday.

The MWC is the only conference that has not signed the new deal with ESPN and has until April 20, 2010, to do so. Thompson said he's not sure how long the conference will hold out.

"Now is the time to have the conversation about change in the current system, because we have a contract in front of us that will extend the status quo for another four years and we want to have the conversation now, not four years from now," Buchanan said.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.