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:
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.