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Bold move will make BCS sit up, take notice

The best-case scenario for the Mountain West Conference took a big step forward Friday, a more important leap toward automatic Bowl Championship Series inclusion than any previous.

Boise State is a major piece.

You can’t complete the puzzle without it.

That the MWC dived into the pool of conference expansion by making the Broncos its 10th member presents the league in a BCS light it hasn’t enjoyed to this point. That the possibility exists to add teams from the Big 12 in the coming weeks only increases those prospects.

It’s one thing to appear before Congress and propose an overhaul of the BCS system, to tell a House subcommittee on commerce, trade and consumer protection how a playoff would be the fairest and most profitable conclusion for all conferences and not just a chosen six.

It’s another thing to land a school with one of the nation’s best football programs.

“(Automatic BCS inclusion) has been and will continue to be my No. 1 goal, and I think I share that with the membership,” Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson said. “We want to play at that level. We’ve played well at that level. We’ve won BCS games.

“We now have four perennial Top 25 football programs and three of whom (Texas Christian, Utah and Boise State) who have played in BCS games. Two (Utah and Boise State) have won BCS games.

“I think by (adding Boise State beginning July 1, 2011), we have made a strong move in that direction.”

Kansas and Kansas State would probably guarantee it.

The Mountain West obviously waited for one of the dominoes from the Big 12 to fall before inviting Boise State, a move that came one day after Colorado announced its decision to join the Pac-10. Nebraska followed by joining the Big Ten on Friday.

The Big 12 is a Texas-sized move away from its official eulogy. That could come next week.

Twelve is the number that Thompson and the MWC presidents should focus on, the ultimate of best-case scenarios for the league. It would allow the MWC two six-team divisions and the ability to hold a conference championship game.

Could you see Boise State playing Texas Christian at Sam Boyd Stadium for an automatic BCS berth?

If the Big 12 implodes with five more schools departing to form a 16-team Pac-10, the MWC should immediately intensify any conversations it has already held with Kansas and Kansas State.

It’s true those schools are trying everything today to avoid such a move, to keep the Big 12 brand alive even if its membership continues to shrink daily.

It’s a nice thought, but not very practical. The Big 12 without Texas and Nebraska and Oklahoma football would be like the World Cup without Brazil, Spain and Argentina.

What’s the point?

The Big 12 could approach Utah about coming aboard when trying to save the league, but the Utes in essence would be leaving a better football conference for a weaker one. Boise State in the MWC guarantees that.

The worst-case scenario: At this point, I’m not sure there is one for the MWC, because even if it remains at 10 teams, things are far better in football today (which is really all that matters) than they have been at any point of the league’s existence.

Many have wondered about a 16-team MWC, about maybe adding the Kansas schools and Missouri and Iowa State and Fresno State and UNR, but you have to think expanding that much isn’t necessary to complete the kind of puzzle Thompson has desired for some time now.

Missouri brings the St. Louis television market. Iowa State brings YouTube clips of Mike Sanford tripping over wires and losing his mind. Fresno State and UNR wouldn’t bring much of anything when it comes to fattening the league’s BCS resume.

Nope. Twelve is it. That’s the magic number. The best number.

On Friday, getting No. 10 was a fantastic start.

“In my opinion, just getting Boise State is now going to make it very hard for them to deny us an automatic BCS berth at the next turn (following the 2011 season),” said UNLV athletic director Jim Livengood, who served on the BCS committee as its Pac-10 representative for six years while at Arizona. “I can’t possibly see now how they could rationalize anything other than that.

“Never did I think we would see what is happening or is about to happen with expansion. Never did I think we would be heading down this road.”

It’s not over. Not close.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618.

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