Thompson talks BCS, TV deal among other topics in annual state of MWC discussion

Commissioner Craig Thompson hints at potential for Mountain West hoops on CBS this season

MWC Media Day

First-year UNLV head football coach Bobby Hauck speaks to the media at Mountain West Conference media day at Red Rock Resort.

Mountain West Conference Media Day

UNLV coach Bobby Hauck speaks to the local media during Mountain West Conference media day at Red Rock Casino in Las Vegas Tuesday, July 27, 2010. Launch slideshow »

Tackling diverse issues during his annual time with the Mountain West Conference media on Wednesday morning at Red Rock Resort, Commissioner Craig Thompson drew quite a crowd.

After going the politically correct route for the most part while fielding questions at the podium — especially regarding Utah's upcoming departure to the Pac-10 — it was his lengthy, laid-back session with reporters in the back of the room that perked up some ears.

Two topics of particular interest were the conference's continuing push for automatic annual BCS inclusion and the league's take-it-or-leave-it television deal.

Of course, many thought that an official entry into the BCS fraternity would happen when the Mountain West appeared to have a stellar 10-school roster in place for 2011 and beyond thanks to the addition of Boise State earlier this summer.

However, not too long after, when the Pac-10's master plan of adding six Big 12 programs fell to pieces, it simply expanded to 12 schools by poaching Utah.

Many looked at it as a wash for the MWC, with the conference pretty much finishing the hectic summer right where it started.

Thompson doesn't see it that way.

He pointed out with authority that Boise State actually helps boost the league's mathematic profile in terms of the factors figured into the BCS automatic berth equation: Where the league's top-ranked team finishes in the final BCS standings, the league's overall strength and the adjusted Top 25 rankings.

The official decision on whether a seventh automatic qualifier will be included into the BCS party, of course, will come after the 2011 season.

"It's halftime. We've played two quarters," Thompson said regarding the final two upcoming seasons of the four-year BCS cycle. "We cannot afford to have one single 19th-ranked team this year and expect to maintain that status. We might not have to have three in the Top 25, but we have to play well in the finish in these next two years.

"Our intent is to get a seat at the table on a permanent basis, as I've mentioned before."

Thompson's biggest beef, it appeared on Wednesday, was that his fellow conference commissioners do not want the numbers that go into the equation comparing the leagues released publicly.

"I disagree with this position," he said. "Why don't we make these public? They're factual. We're well in the top range there."

However, Thompson took more of a defensive stance when questions began to fly regarding the television package.

In what seems like a now-annual subject that he has to discuss, the TV discussion was especially relevant this time around considering that all of the conference realignment news and speculation this summer seemed to revolve around television network deals and revenues.

Many fans around the MWC have clamored for the league to bend a bit and work itself onto the ESPN family of networks during the regular season, but Thompson said the conference is standing firm.

"The issue remains the same: They have asked us to play on Tuesdays and Wednesdays," he said. "That's just a non-starter with our board of directors.

"I think we'd be willing to play on Thursdays. We've had conversation with ESPN. It may never happen; it may happen. We have the three components (right now): The national piece is with Versus with eight (televised) games. The other piece is CBS College with 12-15 games, then The Mtn. has 30 football games. We have some wiggle room with those people."

MWC hoops on CBS this season?

One of Wednesday's more interesting moments occurred thanks to Thompson stopping himself short after unveiling a little nugget of news.

While talking about the league's TV deal, he hinted that a few conference men's basketball games could make their way onto CBS this season.

"Not to jump the gun, but we will soon see a game or two on CBS," he said out of left field. "Not yet in football, but in basketball."

When asked if that would be this season, Thompson paused for nearly 10 seconds before answering.

"Let's wait until basketball media day on that stuff. There's always some changes. I say that today. We have not finalized (it). The schedule has not been released, but I would expect Mountain West college basketball on CBS.

"Just a game or two."

The future of the BYU-Utah football series

If BYU and Utah do decide to continue their long-standing annual football series, don't expect it to remain the final game of each team's regular season.

Thompson hinted that the current plan for 2011 and beyond is to insert Boise State into Utah's current slot on future schedules, meaning that the Broncos and Cougars would make meeting in the regular season finale a yearly occurrence.

However, Thompson said that just as much as he wants to see MWC teams play on Saturdays moving forward, he wants to see the tradition of that series honored by it continuing.

Dish Network talks to resume?

Thompson added that discussions for The Mtn. to be carried on the Dish Network in the future could resume.

The reason? Despite losing Utah, the Mountain West came out ahead somewhat by adding Boise State in the sense that it added the Boise television market to its portfolio.

"I think that's back in play, certainly with the addition of Boise State — a new market, a hot commodity," he said. "We're very excited."

Expansion not over?

Is conference expansion done? There's no clear answer, according to Thompson.

"Are we over? I don't know," he said. "I think we're probably going to face a situation in the next three to five years where there will be some continued conversation as several leagues are re-negotiating their television contracts.

"We probably talk about membership and expansion at nearly every meeting. I think that's just common practice; it doesn't mean we'll do anything about it. For us, geography might be a little more important than for other conferences."

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  1. I'm sorry I'm not buying the "ESPN only offers Tuesday and Wednesday" game crap. ESPN did college gameday at MWC schools THREE TIMES last year. You know, for their GAME OF THE WEEK. You can't tell me that they wouldn't put those games on Saturday, if not the late primetime game, but at least an afternoon game.
    Keep the Mtn for the regional games (all games in HD now!) and let ESPN take any game they want as long as if its on ESPN 1 or 2. It will only help the exposure of the MWC and the potential future ratings of the Mtn due to the exposure and the subsequent increased interest. Everybody wins. How can this be that hard?

  2. I don't think he meant that EVERY game of the MWC's would be on Tuesday or Wednesday, but most of them would be. Obviously, a marquee matchup (TCU-BYU, BYU-Utah, Utah-TCU) would make the Saturday cut, but the MWC apparently wants nothing to do with early week games even if it means being the only game on that night and getting some national spotlight on some of the league's more unheralded programs. I can't say I agree with them on this one. I agree with Thompson on a lot of fronts, but not on this one.

  3. I think the problem with the weeknight games are the late ending time and the fans getting home after midnight. Oklahoma State did a Thursday night game in the last year or so, and don't want to do another one. The fans don't get to town early enough to shop and eat at the local establishments, they also leave as soon as the game is over. Merchants and alumni complain and the students miss class because they were up until 3AM.
    Personally, I think it is worth all that in order to be the only game on ESPN. But, they didn't ask me.

  4. Sounds like the MWC BOD is simply trying to cover up for a really bad TV deal.

    Football is a 7 day a week sport now during the season, meaning people will watch good football - college and pro - in big numbers every day of the week, if given the opportunity to do so.

    That's why ESPN wants a quality product like MWC football on Tuesdays and Wednesdays - because it means bigger numbers than the WAC, Sunbelt or MAC can draw on two weeknights that would otherwise be slow for ESPN.

    Meanwhile the MWC insists on being the last choice option on Saturdays behind all of the BCS programs which the MWC will NEVER displace from prime time weekend spots, even if the MWC gets a BCS bid.

    There simply are not enough bodies in the MWC states to draw big ratings in prime time Saturday afternoon matchups.

    Take the Tuesday/Wednesday slots, get the MWC games seen by more people, and earn a little national respect.

    It might make the difference between an undefeated MWC team playing in the BCS NC game or not getting a bid.

  5. I would rather see Thursday and Friday games on ESPN/ESPN2. While ESPNU is more available it is nearly impossible to get in HD, and I think has about the same distribution as CBS C. A double header on ESPN Thursday night games would work well, the first game could be a 6pm or 7pm eastern start with the MWC being the late game at a reasonable 8pm kick off time locally in the mountain or pacific time zone.

  6. tuesday or wednesday games are a horrible idea.

    the MWC is just as good if not better than some bcs conferences.

    we should not put ourselves at even more of a competitive disadvantage than what already exists by having short weeks.

    you end up with a situation where the bcs conference scbool gets a whole week to prepare for a game, while a MWC school gets 2 or 3 days to prepare for the same game.

    thankfully the conference admin understand this, even if fans don't.

  7. and forget about the gate.

    want to see attendance cut in half? then play on a tuesday night.

    bending over for espn so they can stick us in one of their non desirable time slots is also basically giving the finger to the ticket buying fan.

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  9. This is all a negotiation. They offer us Tuesday and Wednesday knowing we won't take it. After this year, with Boise St gone it will be the WAC who ends up on Tues and Weds. Then we will gladly take Thursday and Friday with one or two big Sat match-ups.

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  12. No one will go to watch games on weekdays. It may be good for the TV network (ESPN) to do so, but not for the conference teams at all. Also depends on how late the games would be.

  13. I don't understand why it has to be an all or nothing exclusive TV deal. Pac 10 has a deal with Fox sports, the Big Ten and the Big 12 have their own networks (though I think the Big 12 is also Fox), though they still have big games on ESPN. Why can't they allow ESPN to take the big games? Like I said it will help exposure of the conference, could boost interest in the league, and drive more people to watching the Mtn.
    I wouldn't mind having a game on Tuesday or Wednesday, only if they could work it out that both teams have a bye the following week, and if it involved the lower to middle tier teams only. Putting a TCU-UTAH(BSU) game in that spot is just disrespectful, but a game that wouldn't get national exposure otherwise would be nice. ESPN may not want a low interest game, but if its football, and the only game on, people will watch it.
    It'll tough to do the bye thing with an odd number of teams in the league, but if UNLV got on ESPN once a year I'd like to see it. Sure the box office will stink, but its not great now anyway. The students and die hards (all 10 of us) would find their way out there.