The nine-team Mountain West Conference is pushing for an automatic berth into the high-stakes, big-money BCS bowl mix, USA Today reported on Monday.
Three teams in the conference, including undefeated Utah in sixth, TCU in 11th and BYU in 16th, finished among the top 25 in the final 2008 BCS standings, and the league's schools will press for a meeting of their presidents, chancellors and Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson with Atlantic Coast commissioner and current BCS coordinator John Swofford, according to the newspaper.
"The argument I will hear back is, 'Craig, here it is. It's done. It's been agreed to. It's signed,'" Thompson said of a possible reply from the BCS regarding its legal obligations. "That doesn't mean you can't put it on the table.
"One of the options would be to visit with the BCS coordinator ... just to lay out our position."
He adds: "I would not be optimistic. As I explained to them [the Mountain West presidents], it's a series of legal contracts among 11 conferences, four bowls, two TV partners with yet another TV partner coming in. I would not see much of a relaxation."
The BCS bowl games' payout for each team's school is $17 million -- more than five times what teams in second-tier bowls garner.
For his part, Swofford recalled that the Mountain West was among the 11 conferences that agreed to the current model, which "incorporates the strength of a league as a whole over a series of years," the USA Today report says.
BCS coordinator duties are rotated among the commissioners from the Big East, Big 12 and SEC. Six conferences -- the Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pacific-10, SEC and ACC -- name champions that automatically qualify for the BCS' five bowl games.
Utah, Swofford told USA Today, "had a terrific season this year, and the BCS provided an excellent platform to showcase their team."
According to the report, an opening exists for a nonqualifying conference to gain the automatic status temporarily based on a BCS formula that includes "the number of top 25 teams, finish of the highest-ranked team and average rank of all teams over a four-year period."
But the Mountain West will be vying for the highest level of qualifying status, USA Today reported.