After having their plan to form an alliance to challenge for BCS AQ status heavily damaged by the Big East, the Mountain West and Conference USA have to make a decision in the next few days or weeks as to whether they want to be BCS wanna be's who aren't AQ or whether they want to take the mantle of leadership among the non-AQ leagues.
Let's say that for one day people cast aside their snotty "we're better than them" attitudes and desire to push the other non-AQ's out of the way in pursuit of full status with the AQ and instead said, "look the other four non-AQ leagues aren't the enemy. They are the only ally we have in keeping high level college athletics viable for leagues that aren't generating billion dollar TV contracts. How can we preserve our opportunities to grow? How can we improve our situation without casuing conferences to rely on pulling up more FCS schools that could create instability in FBS as a whole? How can we prevent schools from dropping to FCS, a move that could create pressure to do the same on programs facing obstacles such as UAB."
On that one magical fantasy day, the following happens: They sit down with the WAC and Sun Belt and agree everyone in the WAC will have a home and the leagues will work together. MWC adds Idaho, SJSU, USU, and NMSU to go to 12.
CUSA adds three of some mix of Sun Belt and the remaining three WAC to get to 12 or adds one to get to 10. C-USA isn't bound to be hands off programs its wants, just bound to be transparent in the process and to insure everyone has a home. Sun Belt stands pat or backfills with WAC schools to stay at 10 but if CUSA chooses to go to 10, the Sun Belt agrees to go 12.
The MWC, CUSA, Sun Belt and MAC then join together to demand that at a minimum that the BCS makes three changes.
#1. If an AQ doesn't provide a champion rated 14 or better, they go into the BCS at-large pool and do not have to be selected but are in the at-large pool regardless of ranking. That protects TV and it protects the BCS bowls while preventing a travesty of an unranked school playing in a BCS game.
#2 The current rule that only requires BCS to take the highest rated non-AQ rated 12 or better is changed to require taking ALL non-AQ champs rated #12 or better. That prevents a 9th ranked champion from being left out as happened in 2008.
#3. If it is what is needed to get support, they join in supporting removing the cap on the number of teams from a conference.
It's not full access, it's not a full share of the money, but it is closer to the goal than we were before. The entire apple cart can't be overturned in one move, but it can be inched closer. The non-AQ's need SOMEONE to stand up and get all the leagues working together toward that goal.
The four lobby together to get proposal 2011-87 passed. It permits leagues without a title game to play in a quasi-title game on the first Saturday in December against a school from another league. You pick a venue for the game and you pit the two highest rated non-AQ champs that aren't 12 or better already. If the MWC top team is #9, CUSA's is #14 and MAC's is #20 you send the MAC team to play the CUSA team because the MWC doesn't want to risk their rating. Maybe you play at the CUSA team's home field in hopes that if they win, the extra quality game will lift them enough to be #12. Maybe you invite a Big XII school standing just outside the at-large cut-off number in. They agree to play so they have have a chance at the BCS with one more quality game.
At some point, probably before Christmas, maybe before Thanksgiving, the WAC is going out of business as a football entity. Unless there is agreed cooperation between MWC, CUSA, and Sun Belt, then Idaho and NMSU are likely faced with being essentially out of the business of FBS football. SJSU might be in that boat. Texas State might be in that boat, and maybe UTSA is in that boat. The dangerous thing is if one or more of them drops football or drops to FCS, a school with budget problems that is struggling now has to deal with that example in fighting to preserve football. With UAB struggling to hire the coach they want or to get an on-campus stadium, don't believe for a minute that the Idaho example won't be touted to the Alabama board of trustees if Idaho goes down. Don't believe that if New Mexico State gets forced into FCS that people won't argue New Mexico should do the same if they don't right that ship soon.
MWC Commissioner Craig Thompson and C-USA commissioner Britton Banowsky are going to walk into BCS meetings in the near future and make a case for fairness in how the BCS treats their leagues. The response to their "good of the game" argument will be sneering smiles as the others at the table consider the hypocrisy of a "good of the game" plea in the wake of a number of schools no longer being viable to remain in FBS because of their actions.
For all the columnist speculation about reducing the size of FBS, the most likely cause of reduction in the number of FBS teams will be if C-USA and MWC choose to not stand up act like leaders.
The MAC and Sun Belt sitting at the BCS meetings, faced with choosing to align with the interests of C-USA and MWC who will yet again present some alternate proposal that doesn't help the MAC and Sun Belt, or choosing to align with the six AQ leagues who at least won't leave them worse off, will vote with ACC, Big East, Big XII, Big 10, Pac-12, and SEC. Any hope of the non-AQ reforming the NCAA and BCS hinges on the non-AQ leagues acting together rather than trying to hurt each other.
For a prime example of how the leagues have acted in the past, look no further than the rule requiring an FBS league to have 8 full members who play FBS football. IT was designed to force the Sun Belt out as an FBS league. The WAC supported that and they will go out of business in part because they've never found an 8th full member. C-USA supported it and they are paying the price as well. The Big East has to add three full members to remain an FBS league and those three are coming from C-USA. MWC supported it and they have to add at least one school with the departure of Air Force and Boise State. Working to hurt one of the group in the end has damaged three of the group who favored it, yet in the end, has had little impact on the Sun Belt and won't this time around in realignment.
The end result will be the status quo will continue to rumble along. The have/have not gap will continue to grow and MWC and CUSA will sink closer in perception to the Sun Belt and MAC, whom they hold in contempt. They won't work with them, so they are forced to basically join them.
I doubt Thompson and Bankowsky are up to the task of being the moral leaders of the non-AQ. Since they aren't capable of leading, the WAC is going to come to end as a football playing league and one to six schools are facing their time in FBS coming to an end.
Life will go on the Sun Belt minus a few teams either way this goes. The Sun Belt will have no trouble finding enough willing schools to go forward. The difference is whether Thompson and Bankowsky are big enough to lead the non-AQ in a way that will change the list of schools the Sun Belt turns to. The difference is going to be whether Thompson and Bankowsky are going to advocate change that the Sun Belt and MAC will join the AQ in defeating or will present a plan that creates a unified front of the MWC, C-USA, MAC, and Sun Belt in reforming college football.
We all know what the answer is. When a league is faced with the choice of being humble and thinking of the greater good vs. what's good for me today, the long-term consequences are ignored and create a situation where a league stops playing football and two others get raided so another can survive, leaving the two further from their goals. College football moves one step closer to no longer being long-term viable for anyone outside the AQ because the people in position to lead will never do it.
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