The Mountain West Conference opted not to add Boise State last weekend during its summer meetings to gauge the changing landscape around it, but then quickly moved to get the Broncos in on Friday, expanding MWC membership to 10.
We all know that the Pac-10 and Colorado moved quickly to get the Buffaloes in to avoid a coming political power play by Texas lawmakers to get Baylor invited to the Pac-10 party. Did the MWC virtually do the same and lock out Baylor by adding Boise State?
Think about this: Does TCU, spurned by Baylor and the Big 12 in 1994, and which would directly battle Baylor for recruits if they competed in the same conference, want Baylor in? Grudges are grudges, but recruiting is a program's lifeblood. As great a job as Gary Patterson has done recruiting Texas and finding hidden gems passed over by the bigger programs, Baylor, athletically, is on an upswing in large part due to men's basketball coach Scott Drew, as well as optimism created by football coach Art Briles, who is excited to have dual-threat quarterback Robert Griffin back in the fold this season. If TCU and Baylor went head-to-head in the MWC, especially an MWC with an automatic BCS bid, recruiting would be cut-throat. A Baylor program reduced to a lower-level conference is far less threatening.
The MWC, like the Pac-10, has choices -- assuming the Big 12 dissolves as expected by Tuesday. Immediately out of the mega-conference mix would be Missouri, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State and Baylor. If Texas A&M chooses to join the SEC instead of the Pac-10, Kansas could be the beneficiary and get the Pac-10 invite. If A&M goes to the Pac-10, the MWC would eye Kansas, Missouri, Kansas State and Iowa State for a 14-team league that would be attractive for BCS acceptance. Even if Kansas goes to the Pac-10 or another high-profile conference, the MWC could expand by two to get to 12 and still feel confident of becoming a BCS conference.
Such a scenario only makes the Baylor picture look more bleak. Where do the Bears go in such a case? Does the WAC hold Boise State's vacancy for the Bears? Is that an option Baylor would even considers? But, what's left besides sifting through the rubble to form a revamped SWC? Could Baylor pull together Rice, SMU and Houston, with perhaps North Texas, UTEP, Tulsa and perhaps Tulane or Louisiana-Lafayette for at least an eight-team league with other regional schools perhaps in the mix to take the total to 10?
Certainly, the appeal might not be there, but in this emerging, new landscape it appears the choices might not be there either for Baylor.
These are crazy times. Sixteen years after the formation of the Big 12, it appears TCU's and Baylor's fortunes could very well be reversed.