Expansion Dominos Are Falling, What Does The Mountain West Do From Here

Actual expansion news has Nebraska going to the Big 10 and the Pac-10 is set to grab Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Colorado.  The only good news out of this regarding the Mountain West is that it is safe to assume that BYU, TCU, and Utah are staying put, the bad news is that those teams wanted out. The first move must go back and invite Boise State.  The Mountain West does not need to do this right away since the WAC relaxed the July 1st deadline for Boise State to leave, they just may have to pony up a few more dollars to do so.

Now assuming that reports are accurate -- and they seem to be falling into place -- with the Pac-10 adding six teams, and Nebraska heading to the Big 10; this leaves Baylor, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, and Iowas State without a league.  For the Mountain West this is good news because the Big XII will not be able to survive unless they want to lose any automatic bids in any sport:

Under N.C.A.A. guidelines, a conference needs at least six universities that have played together for five years. The Big 12 would lose its Bowl Championship Series bid and automatic bid to the N.C.A.A. basketball tournament.

That makes the Big XII essentially dead, because why would any athlete go to a school that would have no automatic bids.  Now at-large berths are another case, but in football the teams left were rarely competitive in the old Big XII so an at-large with that combination is unlikely.  There is a report about TCU joining the Big XII as a last ditch effort to save the Big XII with the other schools.  This seems unlikely since Oklahoma State has mentioned they are leaving to the Pac-10.  That rule actually gives the Mountain West power to either one keep the league as is and add Boise State and then decide on how big to expand with the floating teams out there.

There are two options -- for now -- that the Mountain West can follow through; the first being just adding teams to create a larger league that would include a few off the cast offs, or take at least six of the top Mountain West teams so they can keep auto bids and go after the best teams available.  Not sure how big the Mountain West wants to go, because the Mountain West was formed because of a terrible 16 team WAC that looked like this:

Quadrant 1 Quadrant 2 Quadrant 3 Quadrant 4
Hawaiʻi UNLV BYU Tulsa
Fresno State Air Force Utah TCU
San Diego State Colorado State New Mexico SMU
San José State Wyoming UTEP Rice

The travel was one of the reasons and the assumption of having minor teams in major television markets would bring in major television revenue.  So, the depth of how big the Mountain West goes really decides if they want to just add teams or make a new league with the best of the Mountain West.

The teams that are floating are Baylor, Missouri, Kansas, Kansas State, and Iowa State.  The most basic move for the Mountain West would be adding Boise State, then Kansas and Kansas State.  The two Kansas schools are looking very much like a package deal to keep their rivalry alive.

 

"We want the Big 12 to continue," Gray-Little said. "But because any one or more of these things could happen, part of our discussion also is what would be the next plan for us. I don't have any specifics to give you at this point, but that has to be part of our thinking. If the efforts to keep the Big 12 in fact do not work out, what alternatives will there be for us or K-State and the other universities that might not be part of some new organization?"

Kansas and Kansas State, fierce rivals for decades, have vowed to work together.

"That's been our commitment and our plan, to the extent that it's possible, that we would work together, that we would intend to be in the same conference and have the opportunity to play one another and continue a great tradition of rivalry."

That would give the Mountain West an extra market in the midwest where the Mtn. would then be shown within the Kansas are, plus the hoops of Kansas and Kansas State would drastically improve the all ready solid Mountain West basketball league.  For football this gives the Mountain West two decent football programs with Kansas actually an Orange Bowl participant in 2007.  Kansas State has been floating around average in the Big XII and would be near the same in a new Mountain West by challenging for a bowl bid each year.

Now that is the easy choice that is not messy with no teams breaking away.

The next choice would be a bigger move which would include the above scenario and assuming 16 teams is future to stay competitive to gain the most bowl bids, automatic BCS berth, and television money.  Four more teams need to be added, if Missouri is really not going to the Big 10 then add them, and then go after Houston, Nevada, and UTEP. That gives the a new MWC league of 16 teams that is pretty good.  To keep track here is a possible solution for  a 16 team Mountain West, these are off the cuff divisions so do not take it personal:

East West
Kansas BYU
Kansas State New Mexico
Missouri Utah
Air Force UTEP
TCU Boise State
Houston UNLV
Wyoming San Diego State
Colorado State Nevada

 

Not too bad and fairly balanced with an edge to the West as being more difficult with Boise State, Utah, and BYU. That league is quite strong from a football stand point and actually one of the better basketball leagues in the country.  This certainly would qualify as a BCS league with the addition of Boise as well as some average teams like Kansas, Kansas, State, and Missouri who were good but not great, and those adds would off set the bottom of the league and improve their overall average ranking.  If 14 teams is the way just remove Nevada and UTEP.

Now onto the scenario that would be very difficult to pull off which would be forming a new league with the best teams possible and at least six from the Mountain West, so they can keep their automatic bids to NCAA sports.  Now this is difficult since football drives money and the bad football teams are really good at basketball.  

The teams from the Mountain West that should gang up together would be Utah, BYU, Air Force, TCU, UNLV, New Mexico, and San Diego State.  They fit the requirement for keeping auto berths, but then the mess begins to invite other teams.  The top of the list is still Boise State, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, and Houston to form a twelve tam league.  That brings in a good mix of teams, but would be a real mess by bolting from the Mountain West and leaving some very old WAC members in Colorado State and Wyoming.  

This scenario seems like a long shot out of the three scenarios.  Out of the three the 12 team looks to be the easiest move, but the 14 or 16 team league looks better to be able to keep up with the super leagues.  Now, the big challenge could be if the two Kansas schools get swooped up by the Big 10 mainly because of their basketball programs, but Missouri looks to have burned a lot of bridges and may be forced to join the Mountain West. 

The moves regarding the Mountain West should be start happening early next week, also check back for how a new bowl lineup could emerge from this.

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