Olympics distract us from mediocre MWC


Every four years the Mountain West holds football media day in conjunction with the Olympics. This is a good thing for the conference, because then more people care about skeet shooting and Paraguayan javelin throwers than about 2½-star recruits, and then they don't really chuckle that much when commissioner Craig Thompson proposes to save the conference by making football games available on smartphones.

Nothing says big-time football like walking into Buffalo Wild Wings on a Saturday afternoon and watching Wyoming and Fresno State knock helmets on the four-inch screen in my pocket because they are showing Alabama and Ole Miss on all the 84-inch big screens with high definition.

Thompson also said that while The Mtn. was a good idea, the execution of launching a TV network dedicated to a mid-major outfit such as the MWC was flawed. When a lot of us said that years ago, a lot of us received terse emails and brusque phone calls from the home office in Colorado Springs.

When Bronco Mendenhall said it, a lot of people let it slide, and then his Brigham Young team slid into independence after Utah slid into the Pac-10 or 12 or 36. And then the MWC slid back into mediocrity, just when it was starting to become somewhat relevant in football.

So now the Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel has come out with a poll that ranks the college football teams from 1 to 120, and New Mexico ranks No. 120. UNLV is 118. Fresno State is 109 and Colorado State is 105 and San Diego State is 85 and Hawaii is 81 and UNR is 79 and Air Force is 71 and Wyoming is 63. Boise State is 37 - the only MWC team ranked in the top half of the poll.

And Boise is leaving next year for the Big East. So is San Diego State.

Probably none of this is Thompson's fault, and maybe none of it matters, because nobody has gotten liquored up in the parking lot before a game yet, and also because Kimberly Rhode won the gold medal in Olympic skeet shooting Sunday, and she's an American.

This Ryan Lochte guy has infused most with a healthy dose of Olympic spirit, has he not? So I'm not going to say the idea of making Mountain West football games available on four-inch screens reminds me of watching Eddie "The Eagle" Edwards compete in the ski jump, because those were the Winter Olympics and these are the summer ones. Apples and oranges.

And if the MWC coaches want to predict great things for their 2½-star recruits, let 'em, because this is what football coaches do on media day. They know newspaper writers and TV reporters and Internet bloggers will write it down or get it in a sound bite or link to it, and also link to high-resolution photographs of Leryn Franco of Paraguay practicing the javelin.

So, I think I will just defer to Bob Davie, the new coach at New Mexico. Whereas most people see Boise State and a bunch of lemons, Davie sees only lemonade in the Mountain West. He sees opportunity.

"You look at all the teams, particularly next year (when) Boise leaves, there's no one that's ahead of anybody else," Davie said. "So you've got a lot of schools, a lot of programs, fighting to be the next team to emerge."

And it's a lot easier to emerge when those with whom you knock helmets are ranked 63, 71, 79, 81, 85, 105, 109, 118 and 120 in the Orlando Sentinel poll.

So somebody probably will emerge, just as Fresno State emerged a decade ago and Utah emerged and BYU re-emerged for a while and Boise State emerged, thanks to Oklahoma's gadget-play defense in the Fiesta Bowl.

Somebody such as Wyoming could emerge, or, more likely, somebody such as UNR, because whereas Dave Christensen, the Cowboys' coach, has ties to the Big 12, Chris Ault only concerns himself with beating UNLV and isn't going anywhere.

So Ault and the Wolf Pack easily could emerge. And when they do, the Mountain West might be able to bypass those smartphones and jump right to the little TVs above the men's room urinals at Buffalo Wild Wings.         

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski.

 

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