May 24, 2010
Washington, D.C.-based lobbyist Arent Fox works for the Mountain West, which is currently angling for all it's worth to either earn an automatic bid to the BCS through the Series' recently published formula for inclusion, or to force its way in via its friends on Capitol Hill. In fact, Arent Fox wrote the Mountain West's failed proposal to radically revamp the BCS formula last summer, and its latest work on the MWC's behalf comes to my attention via the fellow BCS haters at Playoff PAC. So when Arent Fox produces numbers concerning the BCS, know that it does so with a specific agenda in mind.
That said, Arent Fox has produced some pretty interesting numbers concerning the BCS:
There's a certain, credible strain of argument that the BCS power brokers shouldn't be under any obligation to provide small-conference teams with equal access to the postseason pie because the "Big Six" conferences that run the show are overwhelmingly responsible for making that pie; hence, the high double standard for entry favoring the teams that ultimately drive the revenue. But this is a different argument: Here, even after the WAC and Mountain West champions have overcome those barriers to entry, they've delivered higher TV ratings, better finishes in the final polls and better attendance in the big-money games themselves than the Big East or ACC ... only to leave with half the paycheck to split among not only their own conferences, but all the non-Big Six leagues, most of which have never even produced a contender for a BCS spot.
That's the business side of the equation. On the field, according to the the three-step criteria the BCS published for grading each conference's qualifications last month, the Mountain West ranked ahead of both the ACC and the Big East in two of the three criteria through 2008-09 – its highest-ranked team (Utah in 2008, TCU in 2009) has finished ahead of the highest-ranked team from the ACC and Big East, and it's placed a higher percentage of its teams in the top 25 of the final BCS standings. If the MWC manages to add Boise State in time for the 2011 season, it will be on par competitively with the East Coast leagues – at least by the BCS' standards – and not far behind the Big Ten and Pac-10.
Will that lead to an invitation to the Mountain West to join the party? Probably not – the formula for addition and subtraction calls for a conference to finish among the top six conferences according to all three criteria, and the MWC (though it easily passes muster in the other two tests) is unlikely to crack the top six based on the average computer ranking of every team in the conference. Will it lead to expulsion of the ACC or Big East? Probably not – the Big East sneaks into the top six (barely) in all three categories, and the ACC, though it currently stands at seventh in one category (number of teams in the final top 25) and eighth in another (average finish of the highest-ranked team), would almost certainly be granted an exemption from the formula, according to BCS coordinator Bill Hancock, to ensure that it fills its automatic tie-in with the Orange Bowl.
All of which, I suspect, the Justice Department may have some interest in.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.