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Q&A: MWC's Thompson, Part II

You saw Part I of my interview with MWC commissioner Craig Thompson. In Part II, he discusses where the Mountain West stands in its bid to become an automatic qualifying conferences, and a tweak he would like to see made in the BCS.

Where does MWC stand today in terms of getting an AQ bid?

CT: I look at the numbers closer than anybody, except for maybe Bill Hancock. After three years, we’re solidly, clearly, easily in the Top 6 of the highest ranked teams. The average conference ranking using the computer polls is 7. You’ve got to be 6 and 6 or no worse than 5 and 7. We retain TCU’s numbers throughout this four-year cycle and we get Boise State’s numbers. So right now after 75 percent of calculations, we would need a waiver vote. Jumping forward, this is also the first year of a four-year cycle (to evaluate performances during 2010 to 2013) and we are in the Top 6 in both categories, albeit with only 25 percent of the ranking. The numbers have not changed appreciably. There’s nothing that we can control as a league other than win games. The opportunity is there. We have not fallen off the chart in regard to those numbers, but we have to perform in 2011. If we don’t meet the criteria, we will seek a waiver. But to seek a waiver you have to maintain (Top) 5 or (Top) 7 marks.

What are the chances you would get that waiver?

CT: I would hate to speculate. It’s now encouraging that every conference has a presidential oversight board seat. At least we’re at the table and able to state a case as necessary. That’s also not to say maybe this year we move into the Top 6 in the conference rankings, then it’s all moot. It’s never been an issue at the top. We’ve been in the Top 10. We’ve played in BCS games, but I read a recent Q&A with John Swofford of the ACC. Their strength is 12. I am not badmouthing any of our teams, but we need to have our six, seventh and eighth finishing teams have better seasons, period.

Are we getting closer to the day when a non-AQ will get into a national championship game?

CT: I think so. Last year, TCU was what No. 3 or 4? This year TCU was very close. Utah in the Sugar Bowl year was 4 or 5 so I think it’s inching toward that. I think that stigma of there’s no way in heck those guys could play in a championship game -- the lines have blurred. There’s no demarcation saying you can’t. You won’t. I think more that it’s getting closer. I appreciate and respect what TCU said. No, they did not play in a championship game, but the Rose Bowl was an unbelievable experience. Outside two national championships, only three teams outside the Pac-10 or Big Ten have played therein 97 years. That’s pretty phenomenal. We think our performance warrants more frequent inclusion and better access but we have access to being in one of the five games.

But if Boise State had gone undefeated this year, there was a chance that either the Broncos or undefeated TCU got shut out of a BCS game.

CT: That’s where I would support a notion of a minimum criteria to play in those games. I would definitely support that notion that to be one of the BCS bowl participants you have to be ranked X.

I have to ask about the decision to move the Boise State-TCU game to Boise. How does that benefit the league?

CT: Let’s rewind. After Utah left, we immediately got together and a schedule was changed with the agreement that Boise State would replace Utah. Since that time, BYU left, and that upset the balance of four home, four away games since there would only be seven opponents. It wasn’t the ideal situation but basically over a two-year period it all balanced out. Jump ahead to December, and TCU announced they would be leaving. In a game of the magnitude of Boise State-TCU, there wouldn’t be a return game and a return game of a Top 10 opponent. You could have said, ‘Well, if TCU promises to go to Boise State in a particular year,’ but that’s not quite right either because this is the most important year. For the best interests of the Mountain West going forward, including BCS and future scheduling, the ADs made that recommendation and the board approved it. You can say it looks punitive, but it is what it is. There’s another piece – Boise State’s game was moved to San Diego State. So it was trying to come up with a way to offset an imbalance on the home-road schedule.

Is this league stronger as a 10-team league than it is with TCU, Utah and BYU as members?

CT: Time will tell. We were six years into the league before people even knew we played football. Now people know the name Mountain West, but until Utah was undefeated and won the Fiesta Bowl with Alex Smith in 2005, Utah football wasn’t truly on the map nationally. I like the makeup. Air Force won nine games, San Diego State won nine games, Boise State was a field goal away from possibly playing in a BCS game and Hawaii has played at that level before. There’s a lot of positives to look forward to. Parity’s creeping in. It’s harder and harder to go undefeated. That’s the ultimate goal, to get to a BCS game without having to be 12-0.