If BYU gone, MWC must go on offensive

If BYU follows Utah out of the Mountain Western Conference, leaving the league considerably weakened with eight teams spread out between San Diego, Laramie, Wyo., and, of course, Fort Worth.

BYU will reportedly become an independent in football and join the WAC in all other sports after this season. BYU left the WAC in 1998 as one of the founders of the MWC.

With Utah's departure to the Pac-10 and BYU's apparent independent streak, the MWC is now in full scramble mode, reduced to eight teams after this season. The MWC would figure to want to beef up to 10 teams as it strives to gain entrance into college football's pearly gates as a BCS automatic qualifier. The MWC, two years into a four-year BCS evaluation period, believed it had bolstered its chances when it added Boise State two months ago as its 10th team. Boise State has the option to return to the WAC without penalty -- a nightmare scenario for the MWC -- but because of the chance to gain automatic-qualifier status in two years, we'll assume, for now, that Boise sticks.

So which conferences will the MWC be forced to poach? The primary league on notice is Conference USA with the WAC also in the cross-hairs.

The two most successful programs in the WAC are Nevada and Fresno State. However, ESPN.com's Andy Katz reports that Nevada and Fresno State, approached by the MWC on Tuesday, have agreed to stay in the WAC.

Fragile C-USA offers more possibilities, and more regional ones from TCU's perspective, starting with Houston, Tulsa and Memphis. UTEP would figure to be down the line with SMU, even with its resurgent football program under June Jones, figuring in as a longshot.

Just two months removed from the uncertainty of the wild conference realignment ride, suddenly, it appears, the MWC finds itself on the clock.