Will Mountain West expand?

We have heard rumblings for the last month that Utah State and San Jose State could be next in line to join the Mountain West should the league expand to 12 teams.

With the MWC Board of Directors meeting in Las Vegas, expansion is on the agenda and a vote could be taken today. The Deseret News is reporting that Utah State would likely be asked to join the conference. The Salt Lake Tribune reports that Comcast is pushing hard for the Mountain West to add Utah State so it can keep a foothold on the Salt Lake City market with BYU bolting to become independent and Utah going to the Pac-12.

This is all setting the Mountain West up to become a slightly improved version of the WAC, with Boise State, Nevada, Fresno State and Hawaii (football only) already in the fold. I am not sure that bodes well for the conference. First of all, it is going to be tough to become an automatic qualifying conference based on the criteria laid out for evaluation at the end of the 2011 season, when the league will have eight teams. If it fails and tries to appeal to the Presidential Oversight Committee, you can bet that group is going to take one look at future membership and question whether the Mountain West deserves it.

Second, the Mountain West better think long and hard about whether getting to 12 teams to add a conference championship game is in the best interest of the league. The championship game is going to have to bring in enough revenue to offset splitting TV money by 12 teams instead of 10. That is no slam dunk. Then you have to consider something else. Say the Mountain West remains a non-AQ league. Say undefeated Boise State advances to the conference championship game and loses. Is the Mountain West really prepared to give up a lucrative BCS spot because of the addition of a title game? Would that conference championship game bring in the same revenue as a BCS bid would bring?

We have seen other conferences lose out on a spot in the national title game because one of its teams lost in the league title game. But there is a difference between those AQ conferences and the Mountain West. The league cannot afford to give up a potential spot in a BCS game, or even a potential spot in a national title game should the stars align. Not for money, and not for reputation.

These are all things the league should be considering as it meets in Las Vegas to determine its future.