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Mountain West Deserves Shot at Automatic BidPosted 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.
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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.