While commissioner Craig Thompson strikes a cautious tone, momentum appears to be growing for the Mountain West Conference to receive a two-year waiver to become a Bowl Championship Series automatic qualifier.
Sporting News, in fact, reported the deal is as good as done.
The 2011 season will be the final one of a four-year evaluation process that will determine whether the MWC receives a seventh automatic spot. The conference counts the addition of Boise State this year but loses points with the departures of Brigham Young and Utah.
Three categories are used to determine BCS status. The Mountain West meets two criteria — the four-year average of its highest-ranked team and the number and ranking of teams compared to conference size.
It falls short in average computer rankings of all teams (UNLV’s struggles don’t help), only one spot behind the sixth-place Big East Conference but a large enough gap that it would be difficult to overcome.
Because the Mountain West is so close overall, the league can petition for a waiver for inclusion for the 2012 and 2013 seasons.
An unnamed BCS athletic director told Sporting News he didn’t “see how we can” deny a Mountain West appeal, especially because the Big East, in a similar situation, was granted one in 2008.
BCS officials could also feel pressured to show they are inclusive because of inquiries from the Department of Justice and fallout from malfeasance by Fiesta Bowl administrators.
“I honestly have no feel at all as to how a waiver vote would go,” Thompson said in an email Friday.
The Mountain West must still do its part next season to gain a BCS promotion, which could make it the most critical in the league’s 13-year history, Thompson said.
“All of the Mountain West teams need to perform well,” he said. “It is important not only that our highest-rated team or teams finish in the Top 25, as they have each of the past three years, but that all eight institutions contribute towards a high conference average ranking. The 2011 season only represents 25 percent of a four-year average.
“If you recall, the Mountain West had three Top 25 teams in 2008 and 2009, and two in 2010 with a Rose Bowl victory. Those were all important seasons as well in the four-year window.”
The league, of course, is undergoing lots of change.
Utah is headed to what soon will be called the Pac-12 Conference, and BYU is testing the waters of independent football. Boise State’s entry somewhat eases the pain of those losses.
Next year, Texas Christian departs for the Big East, while the Mountain West welcomes UNR and Fresno State as full members and Hawaii for football only.
Even if the MWC receives a two-year waiver, it is far from guaranteed to extend it beyond 2013. But Boise State, UNR and Hawaii finished in the final Top 25 BCS standings last season, which counts toward the next evaluation cycle.
Contact reporter Mark Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2914. Follow him on Twitter: @markanderson65.