The Mountain West’s quest to be an automatic qualifying conference is starting to hit some choppy water.
Two years into the four-year evaluation that could ultimately make the Mountain West an automatic qualifier, the conferences top three teams -- Utah, TCU and BYU -- have held up their end of the bargain, going to two BCS bowl games, notching double-digit wins and finishing the season ranked in the Top 25. But the good fortune of those schools has caught the eye of suitors from conferences such as the Pac-10 and the Big 12.
This week, talks heated up about Utah, BYU and TCU being candidates to fill holes in those conferences should expansion occur among the “Big Six.” The Big Ten kicked off the expansion talk in mid-December and this week, Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott said now would be the right time for the Pac-10 to talk about expansion as well.
Utah and BYU have been mentioned as possible candidates for the Pac-10 and TCU has been rumored to be a Big 12 replacement should Texas or Missouri end up in the Big Ten.
Any one of these scenarios would hamper the Mountain West’s hopes of becoming an automatic qualifier.
If Utah, BYU or TCU is invited to an automatic qualifying conference there’s no doubt they’d go. The money, the bowl contracts, the guaranteed shot at a BCS bowl every year without going undefeated is too enticing to pass up.
If the Mountain West lost one of its top two teams, it could probably add Boise State and still have enough juice to warrant an automatic bid. But if it lost two of the current top three teams hopes for an automatic bid would be dashed. The bottom half of the conference isn’t good enough to balance out the loss even if Boise State joined the league. And honestly, if the Mountain West lost two of its three top teams, Boise State would be better served staying in the WAC for better television exposure and more money.
It was less than a month ago that rumors about Boise State heading to the Mountain West started heating up again as the Mountain West looked well on its way to becoming the seventh nonautomatic qualifying conference. Now, the Mountain West is just trying to hold its current conference together.