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College football: MWC presidents want inclusion in BCS

Published January 26, 2009 6:27 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2009, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Presidents at Mountain West Conference institutions are getting itchy about their standing -- or lack of standing -- in the Bowl Championship Series, including the president of the University of Utah, Michael Young.

The U. leader said Monday that he wants to be one of the league presidents chosen to sit at the table with BCS representatives if a proposed meeting takes place in the next few weeks.

The presidents and Mountain West Conference commissioner Craig Thompson are pushing for automatic entry into the BCS' five postseason bowls, and would like to meet with current BCS coordinator John Swofford between now and June to discuss their wish.

"Since we are the poster child for why the Mountain West Conference believes it should be included as an automatic-qualifying conference in the BCS, I would hope I would be included," Young said.

The U. president was commenting on a USA Today article that said MWC presidents addressed the issue at a meeting earlier this month in Phoenix and asked Thompson to set up a meeting with Swofford.

That hoped-for meeting has not been scheduled yet, and on Monday MWC associate commissioner for communications Javan Hedlund said trying to get it scheduled "to get some clarification on the system, rather than to push for immediate change" is "going to be tricky to pull off" because lining up the schedules of the BCS people, the MWC commissioner and three or four college presidents is extremely difficult.

Hedlund said Swofford has indicated that he would be more than willing to meet with the MWC presidents and Thompson. Hedlund also acknowledged that pressing for automatic annual entry into the BCS was one of the items brought up at the presidents' semiannual meeting.

Utah's Young said the presidents believe it is "an appropriate time for more conversation" because of Utah's 13-0 season and 31-17 win over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, in addition to the fact that two other MWC teams, TCU and BYU, finished in the top 16 along with Utah in the final BCS standings (released before the bowl games).

Swofford is also commissioner of the ACC, which is one of the conferences whose champions automatically qualify for the BCS, along with the Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10 and Southeastern conferences.

"The argument I will hear back [from the BCS] is, 'Craig, here it is, It's done. It has been agreed to. It's signed,'" Thompson told USA Today . "That doesn't mean you can't put it on the table. … One of the options would be to visit with the BCS coordinator, just to lay out our position."

Thompson added that he is not optimistic for immediate change because the MWC has already agreed to the current contract among "11 conferences, four bowls, two TV partners with yet another TV partner coming in," according to the article.

Utah's Young agrees, but says it never hurts to ask.

"The thing is, the [MWC] presidents are pretty smart," Young said. "I don't think that any of us are unaware of the complexities. Then, on the other hand, complexities are man-made, and they can be solved by people as well."

The BCS already has a system in place for one of the non-automatic qualifying conferences to gain access, and Utah took advantage of that last season for the second time in five years. Boise State and Hawaii of the Western Athletic Conference have also been to a BCS bowl game.

There is also an opening for one of the non-BCS conferences to earn BCS status, based on its performance over a four-year period.

Young said the MWC presidents would like the same access given to the BCS conferences now, rather than have to meet a certain criteria based on top 25 teams, average ranking of teams and other factors.

"The timing is right for us to talk about the system that seems to kind of systematically exclude, or at least make it much more difficult for certain programs to get in the hunt for BCS bowl games. It does not seem to be a sensible system," Young said. "There are certainly opportunities for improvement, and we want to talk about that."

Acknowledging the sentiment that the MWC's chances of becoming an automatic-qualifying conference would be enhanced if it added Boise State, Young declined to say whether that was part of the presidents' discussion in Phoenix.

However, Thompson told USA Today that the presidents appear happy with the current nine-team league because it provides for an equal amount of road (four) and home conference football games.

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