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Mountain West revives its doomed playoff push to replace the BCS

Matt Hinton
Dr. Saturday

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More than any other conference, the Mountain West exists in a kind of limbo in the college football pecking order: Clearly superior to the other "have-not" leagues, but still sniffed at by the old-money bigwigs who continue to eat up more than 80 percent of the pie at the BCS adults' table. The MWC would do almost anything to earn a seat, and has: The conference followed up its 2009 campaign for a promotion with another campaign for promotion this year, and once proposed a radical overhaul of the entrance criteria as a vehicle for getting its foot in the door. On the other hand, it so resents its outsider status that it's also testified against the BCS in Congress, lobbied lawmakers for reforms, seriously considered walking away from a new BCS television contract and even proposed an eight-team playoff in place of the current polls and computers rankings.

None of which, of course, has made any dent at all in the BCS' lopsided structure or the Mountain West's unfortunate standing within it. But, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune, that hasn't stopped MWC commissioner Craig Thompson from rallying troops in support of another playoff push after the BCS' current television contract with ESPN expires in 2014:

Thompson said he, along with league presidents and athletic directors, will informally engage their counterparts in other non-power conferences to see if there's enough support to put forth a postseason proposal different from the current, controversial Bowl Championship Series.

The BCS's contract runs through 2014. Thompson said this initiative would have to take place in the next six to eight months, in time to possibly present a BCS alternative, such as a playoff, when new television rights contract talks are expected to pick up steam concerning college football's postseason after 2014.

"What we're doing is projecting and positioning," Thompson said. "If there is going to be a change, that change has to be introduced. We introduced a playoff in '09, and we were the only ones who liked it. ... We need to be prepared to say, 'Are we going to put another proposal together like '09? Is there an alternative?' Or are we going to say, 'Let's sign on for another four years (of the BCS).'"

Thompson said league members will call or write their counterparts to ask, "Are you comfortable with the current system, or do you want to be engaged in a change system?"

Clearly, the Mountain West wants to become part of the "change system" — unless it can cash in as part of the current system first. At the same time it's pushing for a playoff that (if it had a prayer of passing) would threaten to destroy the BCS as we know it, the MWC is also continuing its fight to join the BCS with a likely appeal to the Series' presidential oversight committee after the upcoming season. At which point, if he's successful, Thompson will immediately swear on his life at the foot of Jim Delany's throne of skulls to never utter the world "playoff" again. Let them eat cake, right, commissioner?

It's not clear why Thompson believes a long shot playoff proposal might succeed in 2011 where it failed so spectacularly in 2009, especially when his conference has already lost two of its strongest bargaining chips (Utah and BYU) to the Pac-12 and independence, respectively, and is about to lose another (TCU) to the Big East next year. The presidential oversight committee seems like a significantly better bet: With the Justice Department and politicians of all stripes perennially threatening to bear down on the more monopolistic aspects of the BCS, a full-fledged promotion for a Have-Not conference would be the strongest argument yet that the system does actually allow for some upward mobility. Forcing the committee to simultaneously swat away some doomed bracket with their other hand is a strange plan of attack.

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Hat tip: Mike

Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.

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