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MWC pitches game plan

NEW YORK — The Mountain West Conference wants to lead the fight for a major college football playoff.

The MWC presented the BCS with a proposal Wednesday to create an eight-team playoff system that would allow greater access to the national championship game to teams outside the six most powerful leagues.

MWC commissioner Craig Thompson and four university leaders from the league announced details on a conference call, and the entire 21/2-page proposal was posted on the league’s Web site.

“I will put this as bluntly as I can,” said Tom Buchanan, Wyoming president and chairman of the MWC board of directors. “We all believe that change is needed. The current system is not fair, and somebody needs to stand up and say that and ask for dialogue amongst all the parties involved.

“Our goal is to find a system that is best for college football.”

The next BCS meeting is scheduled for April in Pasadena, Calif.

“I would strongly suggest this will be a conversation topic,” Thompson said.

Thompson would not speculate how the proposal will be received, but the chances of it being met with anything other than a resounding ‘No thank you’ from the commissioners of the six automatic qualifying conferences seems remote — at best.

“We have received the Mountain West proposal,” John Swofford, BCS coordinator and Atlantic Coast Conference commissioner, said in a statement. “Some of these ideas or similar ones have been addressed before in BCS meetings. We will make sure that the proposal has a full airing by the commissioners and presidents, and we will respond to the Mountain West at the conclusion of those discussions.”

The Bowl Championship Series last summer shot down a proposal brought by Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive that would have created a four-team playoff.

One of the reasons commissioners from the Big East, Big 12, Pacific-10 and Big Ten gave for being against the so-called plus-one model Slive presented was a fear that any playoff system would inevitably expand.

Even in the SEC and ACC, which also supported a plus-one, there are no signs that university presidents want an NFL-style playoff system.

Meanwhile, fans and many members of the media grow more vocal in support of a playoff each time the BCS format, which gives only two teams a chance to win a national title in the postseason, fails to produce totally satisfying results.

Now, the Mountain West is vowing to be an advocate for those frustrated by the BCS.

“There is a fundamental unfairness here that I think the whole country is aware of, and somebody’s got to stand up and confront that unfairness,” San Diego State president Stephen Weber said.

The conferences with automatic access to the five BCS games are the Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, SEC, ACC and Pac-10.

The call for change comes after a season in which MWC champion Utah was the only unbeaten major team but never was seriously in the running to play in the BCS title game. Florida beat Oklahoma for the championship, and the Utes finished No. 2 after routing Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.

The MWC’s proposal creates a new way to determine which conferences receive automatic bids to the big-money bowls. The current criteria weigh the BCS rankings of teams in each league.

It’s a system that makes it difficult for the Mountain West, Western Athletic Conference, Conference USA, the Mid-American Conference and Sun Belt to gain an automatic bid because those teams usually don’t fare as well in the major polls. The BCS standings rely heavily on the USA Today coaches’ poll and the Harris Interactive poll.

Under the MWC’s proposal, a conference would qualify for an automatic bid if its teams have a winning percentage of at least .400 in games against the current automatic qualifying leagues over a two-year period. Using that standard, the MWC would join the other six leagues as automatic qualifiers starting next season.

The proposal also suggests scrapping the BCS standings and creating a 12-member committee to pick which teams receive at-large bids and to select and seed the eight teams chosen for the playoff.

The BCS previously discussed using a selection committee to determine which teams play for the national title, and the idea was dismissed.

Under the MWC’s proposal, the four current BCS games — the Sugar, Orange, Rose and Fiesta bowls — would host the four first-round playoff games. Another BCS bowl would be awarded to a current non-BCS game and would host the lowest ranked of the 10 teams selected in a game with no championship implications.

The semifinals would be played about a week later, with the championship game a week after that. The current BCS bowls would be given the opportunity to host those games.

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