Since we’re talking about Air Force, now would probably be a good time to talk about the recent hullabaloo over the Mountain West’s attempts to gain BCS membership, or to create a playoff. With all the talk we do around here about recruiting advantages, can you imagine if Air Force coaches could go into a recruit’s living room and tell him that he could play for a BCS conference? Especially when that recruit’s options are probably something like Air Force, Navy, Bucknell, Dartmouth, and Rhode Island. Those three little letters would certainly enhance the Mountain West’s image, Air Force included. Perception is reality, as the cliché goes. It would also add a lot of money to Air Force’s coffers. So… Is it time?

In a word, no.

The Mountain West can talk about how good Utah, TCU, and BYU are all they want, but it won’t matter. The BCS isn’t about quality of competition. The BCS is about putting together a television package that generates the maximum amount of revenue while being split between the fewest possible number of teams. To that end, it doesn’t matter how good the teams are. All that matters is how many people will watch. This is where the Mountain West’s case falls flat.

The BCS isn’t made up of the best teams in college football; any number of non-BCS teams routinely knock off BCS-conference foes every year. The BCS is made up of the most popular teams in college football. Take a look at the average home attendance of each BCS conference last year:

SEC 76,844
Big Ten 70,125
Big 12 62,956
Pac-10 57,350
ACC 52,737
Big East 43,145

Now, compare that to the Mountain West’s average attendance: 35,125. Only two MWC teams, BYU and Utah, have a higher home attendance than the Big East’s average. Those two teams skew the league’s average a bit. The average home attendance for the rest of the conference is a paltry 25,802. In short, nobody cares about the Mountain West.

That isn’t meant to be a slight to the MWC. It’s just reality. If the MWC or anyone else is serious about joining the BCS, they don’t need to show how their teams are good enough to compete; Utah, BYU, and TCU have done that. What they need to do is show how their inclusion would make current BCS members more money. But as the attendance numbers show, the Mountain West doesn’t add enough value in terms of a dedicated following for the BCS to be able to charge a significant premium for its television package. Adding nine more teams would just reduce the per-school share of the BCS money pie. That’s also why there’s resistance to a playoff; the money generated from the tournament would have to be split between too many teams. There is no incentive for the BCS schools to be more inclusive.

The people running the Mountain West aren’t stupid. I’m sure they know that they have no chance at seeing their proposals come to fruition. But by making a public to-do out of it, they generate free publicity for their best teams, highlight the true nature of the current BCS system for the public, and help to establish themselves as a leader among the non-BCS conferences.

Those are all good things as far as Mountain West schools are concerned, but nothing any Navy fan should really worry about.

8 thoughts on “ADDENDUM

  1. newt91

    solid arguments. market share is the best reason I’ve heard yet as to why the big east is able to maintain it’s bcs standing. (as i’ve said before i think they remain overrated as a football conference). plus, they clearly prop up the b-ball side of the equation for the big boys.

  2. John

    Very perceptive analysis, IMO. I have a friend who is close to the Boise State program who keeps telling me that BSU will join the MWC w/in the next few years, theoretically increasing their chances of replacing the Big East in the BCS or being added to it. Your logic is the best explanation I’ve heard explaining why that probably won’t happen. I don’t know what Boise’s ave attendance is but I doubt that it would increase the MWC’s that much, certainly not enough to supplant the Big East. That argument, alone, could convince them not to leave the WAC. Boise and Utah are great “feel good” stories and I enjoy rooting for them when they play traditional powers but they have a long way to go before they have any real national following.

    One other thought, or question. Even if the MWC did join the BCS, do you think any recruiting advantage AF would gain would be short term? The state schools would, persummably, get a few more blue chips, thereby increasing the gap between them and AF. That would lead to less success in the conference which would adversely affect recruiting. Of course I’m viewing all this from the perspective of being a big fan of our flexibility as an independent.

  3. Witt94

    The aspect that I don’t think gets enough exposure is that the BCS conferences do not want anyone else in their club. I think the possibilities of a Utah or BYU leaving the MWC and joining a Pac-10 or TCU joining a Big XII have more of a chance than an entire conference joining the BCS ranks.

    I doubt any of those would happen either.

  4. bonevillejacket

    Just to answer the question about Boise State, they averaged 32,275 in 2008. Great analysis, as usual. The sooner we, as football fans, know that we are the only ones who actually care about the game on the field, the happier we will all be. For everyone else, it’s all about the dollars.

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