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Mountain West Deserves Shot at Automatic Bid

Posted Tuesday, September 1, 2009, at 11:07 AM

The BCS just can't catch a break.

Just eight months after a relatively smooth BCS bowl season, wherein the most noteworthy controversy came from the Big 12's asinine tie-breaker system, the Bowl Championship wizards are dealt with news that makes the good will from last January's shot towards respectability null and void.

The story stems from the recent release of the preseason Coaches' Poll results that does not have a listing for any of the teams in the BCS's stepchild auto-bid conference, the Big East. The absence of any automatic-bid conferences would be embarrassing enough, but the humiliation is compounded by the fact that the third most prominent conference featured in the 2009 Coaches' Poll is the seemingly mid-major Mountain West Conference. The same conference that gave us last year's lone undefeated team, the Utah Utes (who some still believe deserved at least a share of the national title after their drubbing of SEC runner-up Alabama). This while Big East champ Cincinnati lost to Virginia Tech in a game that WNBA fans would characterize as boring. This great mishandling of the bowl season in each of its 12 attempts has drawn the ire of nearly every football fan in this country, from "Six-pack Joe" to our current president.

For years people have advocated for a full scale change to the structure of the BCS system, replacing the current bowl format with a four, eight, twelve, or sixteen team playoff in its place. Obviously no playoff plan has come through to sweep the heads of the bowl games or the college presidents in charge of the BCS off their feet, so maybe a new plan is needed.

A new plan that wouldn't mess with the currents BCS bowl format. A plan that would increase the quality (and ratings) of all the other non-BCS bowls. A plan so devilishly simple it only requires some white out and a pin.

My plan is this: drop the Big East as an automatic bid conference and replace it with the much more deserving Mountain West.

Woah! Is he serious?! Didn't perennial Big East power West Virginia embarrass Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl two seasons ago? Now he wants ESPN to discuss the BCS implications of San Diego State's win over Wyoming?


The BCS was created with the intention of getting the top teams from across the country to play in the marque bowl games, with the best two playing for the national title. In nearly every year since its inception the BCS has failed to do just that, even with the inclusion of at-large,BCS-buster, and separate title-game bowl bids. It's time to start looking at new ways to better the system.

Now the first argument that I imagine I'll have to address is whether the Mountain West Conference is worthy of an at large bid. It is, after all, a collection of teams that are mostly hidden away in the mountain time zone on channels like Versus. Because of that people rarely get the chance to see any of the teams during the course of the season. This inevitably leads to the thought that the teams are of a lesser talent level, despite the fact that three teams are represented in the preseason USA Today poll (TCU, Utah, BYU),and current NFL rosters are loaded with players from the conference (Ladainian Tomlinson, Steve Smith, and Brian Urlacher to name a few). Last season's Utah team has already proven that talent from this conference can draw in viewers from across the country. After all, viewership should be the least of the worries for the BCS, as ESPN can regularly outdraw everything else on cable simply by presenting a game between two MAC bottom-feeders. We are a culture that salivates over football, regardless of the logos on the side of the helmets.

Before I go any further, it should be mentioned that I have no intention to permanently banish the Big East from the ranks of the major conferences. I think that the world of sport works in a cyclical fashion, where no conference or team spends all of their time at the top or bottom of the food chain (excluding Baylor). So to better embrace that cyclical nature, I think we should follow the example of the European brand of football (or as we refer to it, soccer). In the English Premier League, widely considered the highest level of soccer in the world, the last place teams are relegated down to the lesser leagues and replaced by the champions of those lesser leagues. This idea could easily be applied to college football.

Conference prestige is continually measured during the bowl season, when eligible teams compete outside their conference for little more than a trophy and whatever goody bag the bowl's sponsor provides. These games should carry more significance, and it would be easy for teams to fight for conference pride considering the thousands of dollars each school receives when one of their own competes in a BCS bowl. I think that at the end of each bowl season, we tally the wins by all the major conferences (Pac-10, Big Ten, Big Twelve, SEC, Big East), and stack them against the wins of other Division One conferences. At the very least this process would eliminate subjectivity and make all teams accountable for the performance of their conference.

Of course conference bowl records for one season can't be the only means of measuring conference prestige; I would think that every two or three season those bowl records, as well as poll results from the BCS and USA Today, should be used to determine the conferences that are in and out of the BCS picture.

Only then can we ensure that teams who endure the highest level of competition have the opportunity to win a national championship that is as controversy-free as possible.

Showing comments in chronological order
[Show most recent comments first]

Welcome aboard Kevin!

I have a feeling that until some sort of true tournament determination format is used, there will always be controversy over best of the best.

-- Posted by Brian Hoag on Tue, Sep 1, 2009, at 12:17 PM

Why have automatic BCS berths at all? They wait until halfway through the season to rank individual teams in the BCS, why not wait that long to determine which six conferences will get an automatic berth? Most years, I would say five of the six current big dogs would get in right off the bat anyway, but in years like this where the MWC seems stronger on paper than the Big East, the mid-major schools could be rewarded for building their programs.

-- Posted by alxhaueter on Tue, Sep 1, 2009, at 12:19 PM

Thanks Brian!


That sounds like a good plan, but we're a culture that thirsts for football news year-round. If we had to wait until six weeks into the season for rankings like that to be released heads would roll, there would be chaos in the street, dogs and cats would be living together, we'd have nothing to distract us from Brett Favre. Truly a frightening scenario.

However, I do agree that I find it hard to believe that anymore than one conference would be in or out every year. The SEC, Pac-10, and Big 12 aren't losing any steam, and the Beg 10 has been staying afloat thanks to Ohio State and Penn State. The Big East has been the weakest of the bunch for awhile now.

-- Posted by kdf84 on Tue, Sep 1, 2009, at 12:29 PM

I am the Chairman of the Bear Bryant Coach of the year awards. That does not make me an expert but the Mountain West does not play the conference that the big boys play. The SEC - Big 12 - Big 10(11) - ACC, boast at least 5 each of the toughest teams in college football. If a playoff were to be put into play, strength of schedule would have to come into play.

Otherwise, Notre Dame could drop Michigan, Michigan State, USC and get into the playoffs every year.

-- Posted by wallismarsh on Tue, Sep 1, 2009, at 1:21 PM

That's great and all but a playoff isn't happening next year, or ten years from now.

Strength of schedule is already in play since it's a part of the BCS ranking, so if Notre Dame dropped those games their ranking would take a huge hit (but let's face it, Notre Dame could be 7-5 against area intramural squads and they'd still get a ticket punched to the Sugar Bowl).

It's true that top-to-bottom the MW isn't in the same universe as the SEC, but compare the non-conference strength of schedule for Florida and BYU. Florida has a cakewalk and BYU plays against Florida State and at Oklahoma (on top of all the ranked teams in their conference).

These teams deserve a shot.

-- Posted by kdf84 on Tue, Sep 1, 2009, at 1:44 PM

I agree kevin

I honestly feel that there should not be any auto bids... take the top teams in the BCS rankings and if your conference don't have a top ranked team too bad

And I feel as though I need to add that I am very happy to see a sports blog on here finally!

-- Posted by S&DC on Tue, Sep 1, 2009, at 3:13 PM

Thanks a lot, S&DC.


I can't imagine a fan of sport who wouldn't be ok with that!

Not only would it bring legitimacy to what programs like Boise St, BYU, Fresno St., and Utah are doing, but just purely from a spectator perspective, imagine the marque games you'd get week after week (and it's it's in the Mountain/Pacific time zone, these games would make for an excellence Saturday night viewing experience).

That has my thumbs up for sure.

-- Posted by kdf84 on Tue, Sep 1, 2009, at 8:22 PM

I don't know.

In 2005 Miami, Boston College, and Virginia Tech bolted from the Big East to the ACC (who wanted enough teams to hold a conference championship game in football).

That's the last major shake-up in the conferences, so maybe we're due.

-- Posted by kdf84 on Wed, Sep 2, 2009, at 7:59 AM

Great Article!

Can't wait for the New Mexico vs UNLV game (I'm counting down the seconds) OR how about the brawl of all brawls the HUGE Wyoming vs San Diego St. game. Seriously, give me a break!!! Oh, the BIG EAST has WON 3 of the last 4 BCS games (over SEC champ Georgia, Big 12 champ Oklahoma and ACC champ Wake Forest). While, those mighty Colorado State teams scare me, I'm thinking the BIG EAST still RULES over the lil Mt. West (for sure). Oh, I forgot, there's those tradition rich schools like Utah and TCU that get the football world really excited.

This 2nd rate journalistic piece is good for those throngs of Air Force fans but PLEASE - let's talk strong football. The BIG EAST isn't going anywhere and I'm excited to see how the end of the year standings rank. Yep, I'll see a BIG EAST school in a BCS game and hey, looks like they may win AGAIN. However, I'm also looking forward to the wonderful Las Vegas Bowl where BYU and Reno Tech square it off.

Looking forward to seeing the BIG EAST win the next BCS game with 4 wins out of the last 5 BCS games - pretty impressive huh. NOW GO GET READY FOR SOME NEW MEXICO FOOTBALL !

This 2nd rate journalistic piece is good for those throngs of Air Force fans but PLEASE - let's talk strong football. The BIG EAST isn't going anywhere and I'm excited to see how the end of the year standing rank. I'll see a BIG EAST school in the BCS game and hey, looks like they may win again. However, I'm also looking forward to the wonderful Las Vegas Bowl where BYU and Reno Tech square it off.

Looking forward to seeing the BIG EAST win the next BCS game with 4 wins out of the last 5 BCS games - pretty impressive huh. NOW GO GET READY FOR SOME NEW MEXICO FOOTBALL!

-- Posted by mckenzie1969 on Wed, Sep 2, 2009, at 8:01 AM


Let me get this straight. You attempt to attack me based on my sign on name by saying "It would certainly have been a better choice than an over used cliche sign on name based on a struggling local sports team". Now you are suggesting that you are a fan of the Huskers?

Inconsistent at best.

I take back what I said about you sticking to the sports blogs.

-- Posted by Husker23 on Wed, Sep 2, 2009, at 8:42 AM

Thanks for the comment mckenzie, I'm glad that your caps lock and copy/paste functions work so well.

Unfortunately I have a point of contention with your argument. You see the last five BCS games for the Big East play out like this:

2005 - Utah 35, Pittsburgh 7

2006 - West Virginia 38, Georgia 35

2007 - Louisville 24, Wake Forest 13

2008 - West Virginia 48, Oklahoma 28

2009 - Virginia Tech 20, Cincinnati 7

That's three out of the last five, which admittibly isn't bad. However, during the course of the BCS, the Big East carries a mediocre 6-5 record (second worst amoung the major confrences).

If you're wondering, the Mountain West is the only conference that hasn't lost a BCS bowl game.

Sorry to upset you and all the UCONN/Cincinnatt/USF/Rutgers fans out there.

-- Posted by kdf84 on Wed, Sep 2, 2009, at 8:44 AM

Hey Kdf84,

It's a shame your spell check doesn't work but I get the gist of what you're trying to say. Also, I'm sure you're not upsetting the Rutgers fans out there. You see, Rutgers resides in one of the largest TV markets ANYWHERE. They also are happy as anything to be in a BCS conference that allows them to automatically go to a BCS bowl. So, don't worry about Rutgers, Uconn, Cinncinatti or South Florida fans because they're doing just fine. They all have realistic aspirations to play in the BCS.

Also, let's check on each other as the year comes to a close. I'm thinking the BIG EAST will have the last laugh. So, after the Big East plays it's automatic BCS game, let's talk about the state of the conferences. Until then, enjoy the Las Vegas Bowl and let's GOOOOOO Wyoming football - how bout them cowboys!!!

-- Posted by mckenzie1969 on Wed, Sep 2, 2009, at 9:32 AM

Of course Rutgers (5 bowl appearances) is happy; they get buckets of BCS money despite a long history of mediocrity. At the same time, teams like TCU (2 national championships, 25 bowl appearances, sixth largest TV market in the country) seemingly don't deserve an automatic bid.

I agree that the Big East will have the last laugh. Their conference champion will probably be 8-3 (against terrible in-conference competition), ranked like #22, and be in the Orange Bowl. Meanwhile, teams like Boise St. and BYU have to go undefeated and hope for one of the BCS buster spots. Sounds like a win for the Big East.

"They all have realistic aspirations to play in the BCS."

That's the problem.

-- Posted by kdf84 on Wed, Sep 2, 2009, at 10:39 AM


I don't know how much you have read of the other blogs on here but one consistent thing remains throughout... There will always be some moron who will attempt to get to you...(even when proved wrong they just make themselves look worse)

The Big East auto bid should have been removed when Miami, Boston College, and Virginia Tech left to play some real football. Sorry mckenzie but the names Rutgers, Cincinatti, UCONN, and South Florida don't exactly strike fear in the football world. West Virginia is going by the wayside now that they lost their QB. What do you have left besides a mediocre at best Wake Forest squad???

-- Posted by S&DC on Wed, Sep 2, 2009, at 12:07 PM

Thanks S&DC. I took this gig hoping I'd get some judgment (good and bad) so I could better myself as a writer.

Also, I've taught at a high school. I've got some pretty thick skin. :)

-- Posted by kdf84 on Wed, Sep 2, 2009, at 12:24 PM

That is a plus... and like i said before i am very excited to see a sports blog... i myself am a baseball coach and not so much political so to see a blog i can confidently comment on makes me feel good...

The judgement good and bad will help you better yourself but when it gets to the point of just being pathetic it is only a hindrance

-- Posted by S&DC on Wed, Sep 2, 2009, at 12:30 PM

You ought to come to the Bear Bryant Awards in Houston and see how a lot of this works.

A great season or two doens't compare to the week after week pounding that the big conference schools endure.

Most "gimmick" teams use a wide open attack and rely on trick plays to win the "big one". The problem with those gimmicks is it is hard to reload year after year and stay at a high level.

Now I will point out that Chris Peterson was Coach of the Year in 2006. Mark Mangino was Coach of the Year in 2007. Kyle Wittingham was Coach of the Year in 2008.

It will be interesting to see if they win again. Peterson was nominated this last year.

Wittingham benefitted from the Urban Meyer years.

My problem is I can not be convinced that a WAC or Mountain West school could even finish above 500 in a Big 12 or SEC division let alone the conference.

BTW the reason the Big East has an automatic birth was because Miami and VaTech were in the conference when all of this started. At this point they should be at large at best.

I will be attending the OU - BYU game in Cowboys stadium so we can see the outcome. I am expecting the Sooners to not cover the points. That is not that BYU is strong but that OU has a new offensive line and if BYU puts the ball in the air 50 times anything is possible in week one.

I have sent in some online some pictures from the last couple of years if you are interested.

Tom Osborne won the lifetime award 2 years.

Barry Switzer won last year.

You can access the pictures on the home page under the sports heading.

-- Posted by wallismarsh on Wed, Sep 2, 2009, at 12:53 PM

The only thing the Mountain West NEEDS to do to rise above the big eazy conference is to add boise state forget hawaii boise state alone would make it interesting...

-- Posted by S&DC on Wed, Sep 2, 2009, at 2:32 PM

The argument that top tier, non-BCS schools couldn't compete in other conferences is short-sighted at best and just plain stupid at worst.

Ask yourself why some of these schools doesn't get the talent the BCS schools (even the crappy ones). ACCESS! Access to BCS bowls. Access to play in a NC. Access to BCS $ for facilities, etc. these things hurt recruiting.

Given the ACCESS that ALL BCS schools have (even Duke), these schools may struggle in a BCS conference for a year or two but will eventually improve and compete because they will be able to recruit (players AND coaches) better. Given their successes in recruiting and coaching already, there would be major improvements.

For example: BYU has lost several high profile recruits over the past several years, that despite the fact that these kids are even Mormon (BYUs recruiting will always be hampered by the school's standards), they decided to go to schools in the BCS. You may have heard of some of them: Haloti Ngata (currently picking off Mark Sanchez for 6 in the NFL), Todd Heap (another current Raven), Stanely Havili (starting FB @ USC since his freshman year), Steve Larsen (played both ways IN THE NFL last year), Manti Teo (#1 LB recruit competing for time as a frosh at ND), and so on. I'm sure the same (or worse) goes for some of these other schools.

As for these schools being "gimmicky." You obviously don't watch TCU, BYU, or Utah. Utah in '04s offense may have been a little "gimmicky" but they weren't at all last year, their defense (as much as it pains me to say) is smash mouth, put your CBs on an island, speedy defense. TCU is the same, their offense is pretty vanilla, with some wildcat (not exactly "gimmicky" anymore) and some option (although not as much recently) and their defense is built on speed just like TCU. People tink BYU only runs spread stuff but they run out of the I and 2 TE sets a ton and even their wide sets have pretty basic, dink and dunk routes. And let's not even talk about their "just try to keep everyone in front of you" defense, not exactly a "gimmick", most BYU fans wished the defense was more "gimmicky."

I don't think the answer is replace MWC with the Big East. It's ACCESS for ALL.

-- Posted by fattycoug on Wed, Sep 2, 2009, at 2:47 PM


Glad to see your face on the Gazette web page. As for the issue at hand, fattycoug, while I agree with you, your idea is unrealistic in the current BSC climate. The order has been established and now those of us who believe in something that would give us a real champion (playoff or at least a fair chance) must chip away. If we chip away enough, down comes the establishment.

As for 'gimmicky', whoever threw that out there think about this for a minute. Pretend you are a MW school and you are stuck with 2nd tier players at many positions. Would you line up and try to run over any school? The 'dorky' kid in school needs to out think the bully so he can keep his lunch money. Really the dorky kid is just smarter and more inventive. This is where a lot of MW schools are. I would argue that their coaches already are much better than several of the BCS coaches because they are able to get great results with much less. It is easy to gameplan when you know you are bigger and can do whatever you want. Give me the coaches who do more with less. As a fan, don't we want to watch 'gimmicky' offenses? It is more fun.

This is another example of money keeping democracy from reigning, just like our government!!!!!!!!

Again, Kevin, nice work!

Josh Lewis

-- Posted by jlewis on Thu, Sep 3, 2009, at 1:01 PM


I Agree 150%... a coach that can be inventive enough to win with lower caliber talent should be considered better... anybody can win when you flat have more talent... look at texas tech before leach as compared to now... that is as gimmicky as you can get but is completely effective... where is the talk about other schools in the big conferences being gimmicky

-- Posted by S&DC on Thu, Sep 3, 2009, at 1:50 PM

Guillermo, you stole my thunder sir. No one else in the country runs out of the offensive formations that Florida puts on the field, yet they are a powerhouse in every sense of the word.

Another thought:

When Nebraska won its final three national championships, they were one of the only teams in the country running the triple-option. They did not have a top-flight recruiting base, and a chunk of their talent came from the walk-on program.

If you plug a football team like that into 2009, they would meet some of these definitions of "gimmicky" right?

-- Posted by kdf84 on Thu, Sep 3, 2009, at 2:19 PM

I like the line of thinking. Maybe not even drop the entire conference out of the picture, but certain teams are elevated from the mid-major conferences to be eligible based on record, strength of schedule etc.

You know, if the Utah' and BYU's were given the same kind of cash that the large conferences were given, you would see some quick parity, and more players that are sitting 2nd string or 3rd string, who would start at the mid-major school, then would have to rethink their reasoning to go to the Top division school...

1. I still get a shot at National Championship.

2. Education is much better at some of the mid-major schools. BYU-Marriot School of Management #3 in the nation. Utah- Medical School one of the top in the nation.

3. I get to play right away.

4. Upper conference schools lose the ability to stack up talent, because they may choose to go where they can play 3-4 years instead of one or two.

This makes so much sense, and those who think it is fine as it is, well, your heads are so far in the sand, it is no wonder you can't think straight. There have been some major players in the NBA, NFL that have come through the smaller, mid-major schools! It's all about the money!

-- Posted by Garwin on Thu, Sep 3, 2009, at 3:52 PM

Steve McNair, Terrell Owens, and Ben Roethlisberger (or however you spell it) came from smaller schools! Thats just the tip of the ice berg

-- Posted by S&DC on Thu, Sep 3, 2009, at 4:02 PM

Well said Garwin.

-- Posted by kdf84 on Thu, Sep 3, 2009, at 4:25 PM

A big THANK YOU Kevin Forch,

Isn't time drop the BCS conference standings and go to a 8 team playoff system. Go ahead and use the BCS rankings and select the top 8 teams. Use a conventional tournament bracket. As teams lose, let them go to a bowl game. The national champion will then be undisputed. Just imagine the excitement.

-- Posted by Chunky Peanut Butter on Thu, Sep 3, 2009, at 9:09 PM

Name a gimmick offense that has won a National Championship? The key to winning titles and Championships is to have a dominate defense and solid running attack that can run clock.

If you want a list of teams I propose you consider:

Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, USC,LSU,Florida, Miami just to name a few.

When Bob Stoops came to OU he had a solid defense but needed a gimmick offense so he hired Mike Leach. As soon as Bob turned OU around he went to the pro style play action running game with a pocket style QB. The only significant difference in Leach's "gimmick offense" is it is ball control but it is high risk and when it fails TT gets blown out.

Kevin Sumlim and Dana Hollgerson (SP and Leach's O coord) are putting in a passing style run and shoot style offense at the UH. Those guys are some of the brightest offensive minds in college football today and they will win a lot of games. But when they play an elite team from an elite conference they will lose that athletic edge every time.

I actually feel that the time is right for the return of the option running game. Teams have been recruiting Dbacks that are very fast now to stop these spread offenses. You see many guys less than 6' playing corner and many taller kids playing free and strong safety. The 4-3 defenses are a thing of the past and many teams now basically run a 3-2-6 set. Those zone and cover 2 type packages are just what the doctor ordered for seals and against the grain cutbacks in a triple option attack. That offense kills clock and the returns the game to field position.

Anyway - At the OU/BYU game. OU should handle BYU. The athletic edge should be to great.

-- Posted by wallismarsh on Sat, Sep 5, 2009, at 10:51 AM

The reason you will not have a playoff is because the NFL players Union said if the NCAA put one in, they would unionize college football.

That is the main reason it went away in 2003. I did some work for the Big 12 putting together Texas schools info. Look it up on the internet if you want to verify.

-- Posted by wallismarsh on Sat, Sep 5, 2009, at 11:32 AM

BYU wasn't an air attack.

BYU offense scored 1 TD. OU is a middle of the road team this year and would have beat BYU if there QB stayed healthy.

We came out with our Watch list. Included Temple and Idaho.

-- Posted by wallismarsh on Sat, Oct 31, 2009, at 10:59 AM

Coach Peterson won the Bryant Award. What a great guy!

-- Posted by wallismarsh on Sat, Jan 16, 2010, at 4:53 PM

Interesting to see what has happened to these Mountain West teams since they joined BCS conferences. Utah is under .500 in the Pac 10 and TCU is .500 in the Big 12. The Power conferences get the better players.


-- Posted by wallismarsh on Thu, Oct 3, 2013, at 7:44 PM

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Armchair Sports Report
Kevin Forch
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My name is Kevin Forch, a Stratton, Nebraska native who uses the McCook Gazette webpage to keep up on the hometown news. I am also a recent graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln who now lives in Kansas, where I work at a community college.
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