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Mountain West Dreaming Says Root

Written by:
C Costigan
Published on:
Aug/21/2010
Mountain West

 

I've been a Mountain West fan since before the conference was even called the Mountain West (when it was the WAC with 16 teams). 

Living at my homes in Las Vegas, Nevada and Park City, Utah, the Mountain West is my home territory. It gives me my geographical "winning edge." I've probably won more Mountain West games...picked more outright underdog upsets involving Mountain West teams...and won more "Games of the Year" involving Mountain West teams than any handicapper on the planet for the past 25 years. I am rooting for my "home conference" to gain an automatic BCS invitation each January. When the Mountain West added perennial National Championship contender Boise State a few weeks ago, it seemed clear we were going to reach BCS heaven (with 4 of the country's top football teams in the conference- Boise, Utah, BYU and TCU). But then Utah announced they were leaving to join the PAC 10 (now PAC 12). That hurt. Suddenly we were right back where we started- gaining Boise, but losing Utah was a nothing more than a “push.” 

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Next came even more devastating news- it was rumored that BYU was defecting to become a WAC team (and a football independent). Lose BYU and the Mountain West would be losing BSC ground faster than a Barack Obama popularity poll. Suddenly the Mountain West had gone from ecstasy to agony in a matter of a month. Losing BYU put the entire future of the conference in jeopardy. With the loss of both Utah and BYU, the addition of Boise State was rendered meaningless. 

Then came the next chess move by the Mountain West commissioner- late this past week it was announced that Fresno State and Nevada are joining the Mountain West. Good teams to shore up the middle of the Mountain West, but certainly no superstars there. But the beauty of this chess move wasn't in addition, but rather in subtraction. With one move the Mountain West destroyed the WAC, thereby ruining BYU's plans. BYU cannot possibly join the now depleted WAC. That dream is dead. Brilliant chess move. Assuming the Mountain West now makes the necessary concessions (aka bribe) to BYU to keep them happy- allowing them to keep most or all of their television revenues- BYU should be safely back in the fold.

So assuming BYU now decides to stay, what is the next move for the conference? The Mountain West now has 11 teams. A conference needs 12 teams to hold a championship game (thereby adding more exposure and revenues). Who is the 12th team? I suggest the Mountain West immediately go after Houston, currently a member of the Conference USA. Conference who? You know...the conference won each year by East Carolina. If East Carolina is the highest profile team of a conference, I suggest it's time to consider moving! Houston would be far better served in the Mountain West, as one of the better small football schools in the country (just a notch below Utah, BYU, or TCU). More importantly, Houston brings the lucrative Texas television market and fan base, as well as an instant conference rivalry with TCU. Houston may be a small school, but the city of Houston is now the 4th biggest in the United States. That's a big time market for a small conference to add. As the 12th team in the conference, Houston would clinch the addition of a Mountain West championship game, and most probably a coveted BCS automatic entry.

Another option might be adding 3 teams- Houston, SMU and UTEP. That would instantly make the Mountain West a conference dominated by Texas football teams- giving it major exposure in the most football-crazy state in the country. Or the conference could choose to add Hawaii plus 2 Texas teams (Houston plus either SMU or UTEP).

The future of the Mountain West looks bright and exciting, assuming BYU stays. But if BYU leaves all bets are off. If BYU leaves, only 10 teams remain in the conference. At that point, the Mountain West would need to add 2 teams- possibly Houston and either Hawaii or one of the other Texas teams from Conference USA. Or another rumored option is merging the entire Conference USA into the Mountain West to form a "super conference." But a super conference without BYU would merely be a weak conference with alot of teams. 

So once again, everything hinges on BYU's decision. I'm betting they stay. I'm betting the Mountain West commissioner gives BYU whatever they want. I'm betting the threat to become an independent is only a negotiating ploy at this point. Afterall, in this current BCS landscape, independents are orphans with even less shot at a BCS Bowl. Notre Dame is rumored to be thinking of joining the Big 10...why on earth would BYU be thinking of becoming another Notre Dame? Look at the numbers BYU- there are 1.6 billion Catholics, but only 14 million Mormons. Becoming an independent football team makes at least some sense for Notre Dame, but none for BYU. Becoming an independent is a threat, but not a real option for BYU.

My prediction is that in the end BYU will return to the fold (and their senses). The Mountain West will quickly add a 12th team and the future of Mountain West football is golden. 

By Wayne Allyn Root of WinningEDGE.com

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