The MW champion will receive an automatic berth in one of the five BCS bowl games if they are the highest ranked non-automatic qualifying conference, but the conference also needs to consider some repositioning within the six guaranteed bowl contracts.
It’s no secret that the top MWC bowls need to start paying out better. At the very least that should apply to the Las Vegas Bowl where the conference champion plays. Right now that bowl payout is only $1,100,000. With a higher stake and larger payout that bowl would be able to attract a better opponent than the 5th best team of the PAC12. The MWC champion should be up against at least their 3rd best. If the pending stadium project at UNLV is completed that could be the catalyst to raise the payout to over $2 million. But at present that stadium is questionable and still years away from completion.
So let’s consider another, larger factor. The Holiday Bowl with a PAC12/Big12 showdown has had a steady decline in viewership over the past 4 years: 2012-13: 2.9M; 2011-12: 4.3M; 2010-11: 5.7M; 2009-10: 6.1M. Now compare those shrinking TV ratings with the viewer growth the Las Vegas Bowl has drawn over the same time frame: 2012-13: 4.4M; 2011-12: 3.1M; 2010-11: 5.4M; 2009-10: 3.5M. For that reason alone, the Las Vegas operation should be able to get a bigger payout, especially since ESPN owns the bowl.
But barring a payout improvement, perhaps another bowl should be considered for our conference champion, namely, the Holiday Bowl itself. Consider that the Holiday Bowl presently matches the PAC12’s 3rd best team against the 5th best of the Big12. Last year that Big12 team was Baylor. You have to think that the PAC would have preferred a Mountain West Champion like a San Diego State or a ranked Boise State in their stead.
Here are just five reasons why the Holiday Bowl makes sense for the MWC champion right now:
1. That bowl has a payout of $2,075,000, almost double the Las Vegas Bowl.
2. It would provide a PAC12 #3 lineup vs the MWC champ instead of the present PAC12 #5.
3. The San Diego based Holiday Bowl is within the MWC footprint.
4. A 12-team MWC could use another, higher rated bowl alignment.
5. The Big12 is presently shopping for new bowls that are closer to home so the Holiday Bowl might be looking for a conference replacement.
If the MWC fails to gain a place in the Holiday Bowl, then perhaps the conference should consider asking the Las Vegas Bowl for a new partner to replace the PAC’s #5 team. Like, say, snagging the #3 team from the Holiday? Yes, that would require a larger payout, but wouldn’t even a game with the AAC’s #2 or an at large, but a top-25 ranked team be preferable to blowout games against the PAC’s #5?
Hopefully, MW commissioner Craig Thompson is making a serious pitch to the Holiday Bowl while he is talking to the PAC12 about an alliance on football games.