Roller-coaster ride gets MWC no closer to goal

Roller coasters eventually stop. Unfortunately for the Mountain West Conference, the one defined by conference expansion seems to have landed right back where all the craziness began.

Good for Utah.

Bad for the league that UNLV calls home.

Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe, the happiest man in the world today this side of the one married to Scarlett Johansson, held a stick-your-chest-out-and-grin teleconference Tuesday to boast about the league he helped save from annihilation.

In doing so, he also painted a picture, however vague, of how the likes of Kansas and Kansas State and Missouri felt about possibly being left to depart for a conference such as the Mountain West.

None of that matters now, and things aren’t any better for a Mountain West that just days ago seemed on its way to securing the automatic Bowl Championship Series berth it has fervently chased.

But once the Big 12’s heart was resuscitated, those Utah-to-the-Pac-10 whispers grew to screams. Colorado needed a traveling partner. The conference needed a 12th team to secure itself a football championship game.

Utah is apparently the selection with an official announcement expected today.

Know this: Utah in leaving for the Pac-10 made the correct choice, the sane choice, the only choice. Loyalty in these matters begins with an I.

It’s the responsibility of every institution to do what is best for itself. Texas did so by not moving to the Pac-10 and causing a domino reaction that would have formed the nation’s first super conference, and if you don’t believe it, wait until you see the millions and millions of dollars more the Longhorns will earn in TV rights.

There is no guarantee the Mountain West will ever be granted automatic BCS inclusion. It had a much better chance had Utah remained in the league with other Top 25 football programs in Boise State, Brigham Young and Texas Christian, but to say the Utes should have passed on all the riches ensured the members of a BCS league out of some sense of allegiance to other conference members is as naive as it is short-sided.

Do you think UNLV would stay if invited by the Pac-10?

Of course not. And if it did, anyone who would support such a thought should be immediately fired.

What this does: The Mountain West remains the best non-BCS league in the land and nothing more, which is to say it still stands at the front of the line when peering through the window at those inside enjoying massive streams of revenue.

The kind Utah will now collect.

Again, good for the Utes. They own the athletic program, the facilities, the on-field success, the academic weight and market size that deserves such a move.

What now, though, for the Mountain West?

Read closely:

“There were five institutions that weren’t being pursued as dramatically as Texas and Texas A&M and Oklahoma. Those five were looking at the possibility of a very difficult future in terms of media value and significantly less revenue. They came together and looked at life going forward and it didn’t look very good. They were willing to do what was necessary to make sure Texas and Oklahoma and Texas A&M were induced into staying with them in the conference.

“Those five among themselves wanted to make sure that was conveyed.”

It was.

So was a larger message.

Beebe was talking about how the schools destined to be left behind if the Big 12 dissolved felt about possibly being banished to the Mountain West. It seems they would have rather had some awful computer virus spread throughout each of their campuses, knocking out all records dating back decades.

It makes sense given the current economic climate of collegiate athletics, of the BCS cartel as opposed to the have-nots.

Why settle for chicken pot pie when you’re used to eating filet mignon?

It’s not personal. It’s reality. The Mountain West might now choose to expand with a combination of Fresno State, UNR, Houston or another to make a 12-team league and have a football championship game, but no one it will invite would greatly improve the league’s BCS resume, if at all.

The conference essentially swapped Utah for Boise State.

It’s not the worst thing. It’s hardly the best thing.

It’s just, well, the same thing.

The roller coaster has stopped for the moment.

Unfortunately for the Mountain West, the view hasn’t changed a bit.

It’s no closer to getting inside as it was before the ride began.

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


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