Las Vegas Sun

December 8, 2023


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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