The Mountain West Conference does not approve of the matchup in the Arizona Bowl.
The inaugural bowl, played on Dec. 29, pits Colorado State vs. Nevada. Both teams are in the Mountain West and Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson wasn't happy about the pairing announced Sunday. After the teams were made official, Thompson released a statement expressing the displeasure of the conference.
CSU and Nevada are playing each other in the bowl game because there weren't enough 6-6 or better teams for the 80 bowl slots available. Three 5-7 teams made it to bowl games (those teams were chosen based on Academic Progress Rate), and the conference said it felt the way the 5-7 teams were placed into bowl games was unfair. It wanted the teams at the back of the line behind all of the teams at .500 or better.
The conference said it had worked to figure out a way to avoid an in-conference matchup for the preceding week and failed to come up with a solution for CSU and Nevada to not play each other.
The Mountain West explored every possibility for placing the teams in question. We suggested swaps, alternative financial arrangements and creative options. Unfortunately, no one was willing to adjust and those efforts were to no avail. Following the outcome of last night's games, it became clear there were 80 teams for 80 bowl slots and the only two openings still available for a pair of MW teams would match them in the same game.
It is a travesty the Mountain West has been forced into this situation. Clearly, the system is broken. There is an excess of bowl games due in part to a disparate allocation of openings vs. conference bowl histories. The result is teams with sub-.500 records participating in bowl games. There is consensus change is needed and this year's outcome must not be repeated.
The game, played at the University of Arizona, won't get the MWC traditional exposure. While most games are broadcast on ESPN networks, the Arizona Bowl has an online-only broadcast agreement with Campus Insiders. Casual fans scrolling through their television guides won't find this game. Heck, the Mountain West's anger may net the conference more attention than the bowl itself.
Does Thompson have a point? Absolutely. This should have been avoided. There didn't need to be an increase in bowl games in 2015. But as long as the system is profitable for those that run bowl games (a reason why many think the system is broken), there will still continue to be a glut of bowl games.
And, believe it or not, it's not the first time conference opponents have played each other in a bowl game (outside of the BCS). The last one was the 1979 Orange Bowl that pitted Oklahoma and Nebraska, then members of the Big Eight, against each other.
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