In the latest (and last?) round of college football conference realignment, the Mountain West Conference (MWC) saw its hopes for BCS automatic qualifying (AQ) status take a detour. Reports surfaced two weeks ago that the Brigham Young Cougars would leave the MWC and become a football independent. The Cougars will made it offical August 31, 2010, and they are holding a press conference today at 12:00 PM (MDT).
The MWC didn't waste any time inviting Fresno State and Nevada as soon as the initial reports about BYU were published. While this might have been the best possible way for the MWC to react, the MWC had no way to offset the loss of BYU when it comes to the conference's goal for BCS AQ status. To briefly review, BCS AQ status is determined by conference performance over a four year period. The current evaluation period commenced in 2008. BYU was nationally ranked at the end of 2008 and 2009 (number 21 and 12, respectively). BYU was in the final BCS standings in 2008 and 2009 (16 and 14). How does this apply to the MWC? First, Fresno State and Nevada won't make it to the MWC in time for their play to count for the MWC in the current four year cycle. Second, once they get to the MWC, they don't bring anything to improve the MWC bottom line. Neither Fresno State nor Nevada has been ranked in either rankings the last two years. The end result is that the MWC will go from a 9 team conference with 3 aces to a 10 team league with 2 aces.
The MWC will not, however, give up on trying to gain AQ status. This chain of events is not necessarily a death blow. It is merely a detour delaying this dream. The collection of TCU, Boise State, Air Force, Fresno State, and Nevada has the potential of developing into a respected top half of the conference. If any of these teams fail to do their part, then Wyoming and San Diego State are poised to join that group. These two schools need to build on the progress they made last year under new head coaches, and find a way to keep those coaches from leaving. This could make 2016 the magic year for the MWC.
In the end, the MWC will land on its feet. Boise State is not running back to the WAC. TCU won't return to Conference USA. The only question that remains is will Senator Orrin Hatch give it a rest?