Novel Idea: A Conference Being Proactive In The Expansion Race

Here's a novel idea. Instead of sitting on your hands and waiting for the Big Ten to make a move that could drastically alter the college athletics landscape, one conference is being proactive in the hope of landing an automatic berth in the Bowl Championship Series.

The WAC's Boise State could receive an invitation to join the Mountain West Conference as early as June 6-8, which happens to be the date of the Mountain West's spring meetings in Jackson, Wyoming.

Currently a member of the Western Athletic Conference, the Broncos would benefit from moving into a tougher football conference that includes Utah, Brigham Young and TCU, the team they beat in the Fiesta Bowl last January.

The Mountain West would benefit from the addition as it bids to get an automatic berth in the Bowl Championship Series. It also would give them some protection in case Utah and TCU, possible targets of BCS leagues, leave.

The Broncos and the Mountain West have spent years making goo-goo eyes at one another. In fact, when the Mountain West last expanded to add TCU in 2004, TCU was extended an invitation over Boise State. Ever since, rumors of a Boise State-Mountain West flirtation have persisted. 

Adding Boise State to the MWC appears to be a win-win. The Broncos up the total number of programs to 10, and further bolster the conference's case to become a BCS automatic qualifying conference. Boise State would join TCU, Utah and BYU at the top of an expanded Mountain West football heap. 

The one downside of this move is the possibility that the expansion dominoes begin to fall, and top-tier Mountain West programs like TCU or Utah bolt for greener pastures (the Big 12 or Pac-10, respectively). Still, given that scenario, the Mountain West could easily backfill with top tier WAC football programs like Fresno State and Nevada.

A 10 team Mountain West football conference - with Boise State, TCU, Utah and BYU at the top - could easily earn an automatic BCS bowl berth. Either gaining an additional automatic slot or taking it from a depleted Big East football conference (should the Big Ten scoops up 2 or more Big East teams).

With talk of Big Ten expansion leaving every athletic director and conference commissioner on edge, being proactive seems to be the only viable attack plan. I know John Swofford said the ACC is happy at 12 teams, and the new ESPN television broadcast rights deal will go a long way towards shoring up the current 12 conference members. Still, there is still a significant revenue disparity between the haves (SEC, Big Ten) and the have-nots (Pac-10, Big 12, Big East and now, to a lesser extend, the ACC). Programs like Florida State, Miami, Clemson and Georgia Tech still have to be considered flight risks to jump to the SEC if given the call. Even Virginia and Maryland, recently rumored to be under Big Ten expansion consideration, might still be flight risks. 

So at the first sign of infidelity, Swofford would be well-served taking a page from Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson's playbook. When it comes to conference expansion, be proactive. What a novel idea.

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