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Tag:SMU
Posted on: December 5, 2010 5:35 pm
Edited on: December 5, 2010 5:38 pm
 

Saturday Thoughts, 12/4

Due to the minimal number of meaningful games this weekend, I chose to take the two major off-field stories and include them in this week’s Saturday Thoughts.


 1. Oregon Wins Civil War, Headed to Glendale

The Oregon Ducks secured their place in the BCS Championship game with a 37-20 victory over rival Oregon State in Corvallis.  Over the second half of its Pac-10 schedule, the Ducks defense has really stepped up.   

Oregon held Washington and Cal to 16 and 13 points, respectively.  Though the defense had trouble in the first half last week, it stepped up in the second half and held Arizona to 10 points after intermission.  The Ducks had another solid showing this week, holding Oregon State to 13 late into the fourth quarter before allowing a late Beavers TD. 

If the Ducks are to walk away from Glendale as National Champions, their defense will have to step up again with Cam Newton and the Auburn offense joining them.

 

2. Auburn Hammers South Carolina

It took until Game 13, but the Auburn Tigers finally have a dominating performance over a quality opponent.  South Carolina provided little resistance to an Auburn team on a mission, falling 56-17. 

Prior to today, the Tigers survived close calls against Mississippi State, Clemson, South Carolina, Kentucky, LSU and Alabama.  Additionally, Arkansas, Mississippi and Georgia played Auburn well early before fading later in the game.  This was the first game all season where Auburn showed the world its full potential on both sides of the ball.  Assuming Newton is eligible (I’ll get to that later), Auburn should be the favorite come January. 

This record-setting loss is yet another black eye for the SEC’s Eastern Division, which is experiencing a down season, to say the least.  For the regular season, the division finished with a 36-37 (.493) record.  Included in that record was a 3-16 record in matchups against the SEC West (1-15 in games that didn’t include Western cellar-dweller Ole Miss).  The East’s season is easily the worst performance by a major conference (or conference division, as is this case) that I have ever seen, including the Big East’s 2004 and 2010 seasons.


3. Cameron Newton’s Status

For those of you who have been living under a rock for the last month (or Auburn fans in a severe state of denial), issues have come up to question Auburn QB Cameron Newton’s amateur status.  Long story short, multiple sources have reported that Newton and/or his father Cecil solicited money from Mississippi State University during Newton’s recruitment last year.   

Recently, the NCAA ruled that Newton’s father did solicit money.  However, since there was no proof Newton had any knowledge of his father’s actions, the NCAA ruled him ineligible.  The Rev. Cecil Newton did not get off without punishment.  The NCAA has severely limited his access to Auburn and its football program.  From my understanding, any time a parent says or does anything on behalf of their child, it is as if the student-athlete took said action.  I also thought that as soon as money was solicited from any source, the student lost his/her amateur status.  Based on these two rules, as well as the facts in the case, it would seem to me that Newton should not have been eligible at any point this season. 

Enter the conspiracy theorists.  College football message boards have been lighting up all week.  Some people have said that the NCAA and SEC commissioner Mike Slive have been conspiring to maintain the conference’s position atop college football (in spite of uncharacteristically bad years from the many SEC schools, particularly in the East).  Others have claimed this is a conspiracy to keep TCU out of the title game.

I wouldn’t go that far, but I would not put Newton on my Heisman ballot if I had one.  The Heisman is the ultimate individual prize in amateur football.  As I understand the rules, Cameron Newton no long qualifies as an amateur.


4. TCU and the Big East

To me, TCU’s marriage to the Big East Conference is a match made in reactionary heaven.  It is my belief that when the history of this round of conference expansion is written, neither party will be viewed as a winner (many more will be seen as losers).   

With TCU, Boise State, Nevada, Hawaii, et al., the MWC was still on its way to BCS-AQ status (especially if it were to add Kevin Sumlin’s resurgent Houston program).  I also think the Big East’s AQ status was never at risk.  There are too many people living in the Northeastern United States (especially New York and Philadelphia) for the BCS to risk abandoning those markets.  If the MWC were to get AQ status, it would not have been at the Big East’s expense; instead, there would have been a seventh AQ conference. 

TCU’s decision moves it to a conference where the closest school is over 600 miles away (the majority of the Big East is 1,000 miles from Fort Worth).  Though not a problem for football, this could become an issue for TCU’s non-revenue sports, particularly baseball.  Moving TCU’s strong baseball program from the MWC to the Big East is at best a lateral move. 

The decision to expand in the name of football has the potential to lead to a split of the Big East to two (or three) conferences.  Syracuse basketball coach Jim Boeheim was the first to express his displeasure.  This decision would likely be enough to drive Syracuse to the Big Ten, should the conference choose to expand again.   

There are multiple rumors about what the next move will be for the Big East’s non-football members.  The first option is the formation of an eight-team basketball conference.  The other popular option is slightly more convoluted: Marquette and DePaul (possibly Notre Dame, too) have discussed the idea of working with Dayton, Xavier, St. Louis and the private schools of the Horizon League to form a new conference of Midwestern private schools with an emphasis on basketball. 

Essentially, the Big East sacrificed its status as the nation’s best basketball conference to slightly upgrade its football status.


5. Sooners Send Huskers to Big Ten With a Loss

Earlier this week, I wrote an article claiming that the Okahoma-Nebraska Big 12 title game would be the most entertaining of the five conference championship games.  I caught quite a bit of flack from members of SEC fanbases.  The primetime performance of these great rivals certainly vindicated me. 

Nebraska jumped out to a 17-0 lead early on, but was unable to hold off OU.  The Huskers were unable to move the ball effectively in the second half as Oklahoma’s defense proved too strong and too fast for NU.  Very rarely in a Nebraska game does the other team’s defense outplay the Blackshirts, but that was clearly the case Saturday night. 

Barring a bowl matchup, tonight’s game was the last chapter that will be written in this once-great rivalry for the near future.  The earliest these two programs will be able to resume their rivalry will be in 2020 and 2021.  Negotiations are already in progress.  Hopefully an annual OOC game can eventually find its way onto the schedule.  However, even if it does, I fear the rivalry will never be the same.  We may have just witnessed the last great Oklahoma-Nebraska game.

 

6. Virginia Tech Runs Table in ACC

When James Madison embarrassed Virginia Tech at Lane Stadium, many experts left VT for dead.  The Hokies responded with the heart of a champion, rolling off 11 consecutive wins.  Only Georgia Tech and North Carolina State provided a significant challenge to VT.  The Hokies beat GT 28-21 in Blacksburg and won 41-30 at NC State.  No other team managed to get within two touchdowns of Virginia Tech for the rest of the regular season.  Atlantic Division champion Florida State didn’t put up much of a fight, losing the highest-scoring ACC Championship game in history, 44-33.  

The Orange Bowl committee must be disappointed.  In Florida State, the Orange Bowl (played in Miami) would have had a school with a strong local following as an anchor.  Virginia Tech travels well, but won’t be able to sell as many tickets in South Florida as the ‘Noles.  With only UConn and Stanford to choose from, the Orange Bowl is destined to be the biggest loser when BCS pairings are announced. 

As far as the ACC is concerned, this game was a huge success.  The ACC Championship game has been plagued by less-than-desirable matchups the last few years.  Due to this, it has been difficult for the ACC to sell tickets for the game (previously held in Tampa and Jacksonville).  The matchup, combined with the game’s new location in Charlotte, give the league its best title game to date.


7. Three-Way Tie Atop Big East, UConn to BCS


This has been a rough season for Big East football, clearly its worst since 2004.  The conference tallied a net record of 52-44 (.541).  Two-time defending champion Cincinnati finished a disappointing 4-8 (including a 2-3 OOC mark).  Greg Schiano’s Rutgers team matched Cincy’s record. 

In an attempt to find the silver lining, all was not lost this season in the Northeast.  Syracuse alumus Doug Marrone led the Orange to its first bowl since 2004, and is clearly the favorite for conference (and possibly national) Coach of the Year.  South Florida was solid, if not spectacular, in Skip Holtz’s first season (including a win at Miami).  Charlie Strong appears to have the Louisville program back on track.  West Virginia had a typical season and just missed another Orange Bowl bid. 

Congratulations to the University of Connecticut on clinching its first-ever BCS bid (either Orange or Fiesta).  The Huskies won an incredibly ugly game in Tampa Saturday night, scoring no offensive touchdowns in their 19-16 victory.  Unlike his Boise State counterpart, Huskies kicker Dave Teggart calmly sent his 52-yard FG attempt through the uprights to give his team the lead with less than 20 seconds remaining. 

Listening to the game, you could tell that ESPN is worried about the ratings that Connecticut will be able to earn in its BCS game.  The announcing crew spent most of the second half trying to sell viewers on the legitimacy of the UConn team. 

This was clearly the biggest win in the history of Connecticut’s football program.  The Orange Bowl will have an interesting decision to make Sunday: It has to choose between 8-4 UConn and an 11-1 Stanford team that doesn’t travel well.


8. Central Florida Wins C-USA, Improves Bid for Big East Membership


Saturday afternoon’s Conference-USA Championship game was clearly the best of the noon kickoff games.  UCF was just too talented for SMU to handle this afternoon as the Knights won 17-7.  This win certainly helps UCF’s case as it seeks an invitation to join the Big East. 

Credit June Jones for building this SMU program, though.  When he took over three years ago, SMU was one of the most pathetic programs in the entire Bowl Subdivision.  After a 1-11 first season, Jones has won 15 games over the last two seasons, taking the team to its first two bowls since the NCAA Death Penalty in the mid-80s.  SMU has shared the C-USA West title each of the past two seasons, but this year marked the program’s first visit to the Championship game.  No matter where SMU ends up after realignment, Jones will have them contending for conference titles. 

Both programs have been subject to expansion rumors over the past several months.  UCF has been widely touted as a potential 10th member of the Big East (joining in 2012 with TCU).  SMU has come up in some conversations as an expansion candidate for the Mountain West.  It’s pretty clear to me that both programs have their best days in front of them.


9. Miami (OH) Completes Turnaround Season with MAC Title


Last season, the Miami University RedHawks struggled to a 1-11 (1-7) record under first-year coach Michael Haywood.  Most picked them to finish last in the MAC East again this season. 

Out of nowhere, Miami finished the regular season 8-4 (7-1), surprising even its coach.  The RedHawks needed some help from Kent State in the final weekend to secure their place in Detroit.  Kent knocked Ohio University last weekend to give Miami sole possession of first in the MAC East.  Miami came in to Friday night’s game a heavy underdog to West Division Champion Northern Illinois (I believe I had them losing by 20 in an article from last week…oops).  Miami hung tough for the entire game and put themselves in a position to take the lead late.  A poor decision by an NIU defensive back on 4th-and-long gave Miami one last breath.  The RedHawks capitalized, found the end zone and won the game, 26-21. 

Believe it or not, the MAC Championship game was one of this weekend’s best games.


10. Good Week on the Field for MWC’s Newest Members

The last week must have been difficult for Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson.  Since realignment got rolling this summer, the MWC has lost all three of its “anchor” programs (Utah, BYU and now TCU).  Beginning in 2012, the Mountain West will look to Boise State and its fellow newcomers from the WAC (Fresno State, Hawaii and Nevada) to bring some stability back to the conference. 

On the field, all four programs had impressive weekends.  Boise, Nevada, and Hawaii had throwaway games against bottom-feeders from the WAC and MWC.  The schools beat Utah State, Louisiana Tech and UNLV by a combined score of 144-52. 

Fresno State had the biggest game of the four teams.  The Bulldogs welcomed a second opponent from a BCS-AQ conference to Fresno this season.  For the second time, the Bulldogs walked away with a win.  Illinois put up much more of a fight than Cincinnati earlier in the season, falling 25-23. 

If Thompson can find two more solid programs, the MWC may still have an outside chance at BCS-AQ status, but I highly doubt it.  If nothing else, the conference is far and away the strongest non-AQ league, and any unbeaten team should have no trouble locking up a BCS berth (a trip to the Championship game isn’t likely, though).



Top 10 (Last Week)

1.    Oregon (1)

2.    Auburn (2)

3.    Wisconsin (3)

4.    TCU (4)

5.    Stanford (5)

6.    Ohio State (6)

7.    Michigan State (7)

8.    Arkansas (8)

9.    Texas A&M (9)

10.    Oklahoma (NR)

The Next Five: Missouri, LSU, Nevada, Boise State, Virginia Tech


Bonus Thought: My Heisman Ballot

Obviously, I don’t have a Heisman vote.  If I did, here is what I would submit.  Keep in mind that with Cameron Newton’s amateur status in question, I chose to leave him off my ballot.

1.    Andrew Luck—QB, Stanford: Over the course of this season, Andrew Luck established himself as the best pure passer in college football.  He led Stanford’s pro-style offense to a top 15 ranking this year.  I’m sure the Bills can’t wait to get their hands on this kid.  Luck finished the regular season with 3,051 yards passing, 28 TDs to seven INTs and three rushing TDs. 

2.    LaMichael James—RB, Oregon : The sophomore running back was the straw that stirred the drink in Chip Kelly’s option-based offense.  He ran for 1,548 yards (6.1 per carry) and scored 20 total TDs (19 rushing, one receiving) while leading the Ducks to Glendale. 

3.    Colin Kaepernick—QB, Nevada : The best dual-threat quarterback who I feel is eligible for the award this year.  Over the last four years, he ran Chris Ault’s pistol-based option attack to perfection.  Last week he led the Wolf Pack in a furious comeback to finally knock off the Boise State Broncos.  Kaepernick passed for 2,830 yards, 20 TDs and seven INTs.  He also rushed for 1,184 yards and 20 more TDs.



Posted on: November 29, 2010 2:11 pm
 

TCU to Big East, What's Next for MWC?

It has been an up and down summer and fall for Craig Thompson and the Mountain West Conference.

The summer began with rumors of Boise State joining the MWC, bringing the conference to 10 members (including Utah, BYU, TCU and Boise) and a near guarantee of BCS-AQ status. 

Almost immediately, things began to fall apart. First, Utah announced its move to the Pac-10 along with Colorado.

As the 2010 academic season neared, rumors began to surface that the WAC was attempting to get BYU and several other MWC schools to "return home" and leave the Mountain West.

To his credit, Thompson acted swiftly, offering bids to WAC members Nevada, Fresno State and Utah State (Nevada and Fresno ended up accepting).

Thompson's best efforts couldn't keep Brigham Young, happy though. The Cougars left the MWC for football independence and placed its basketball and non-revenue sports in the West Coast Conference.

It appeared that things would slow down as the school year began. However, the Big East voted to consider expansion to try to fortify itself against raids (and keep its BCS-AQ status) by adding two to four football-playing members.

TCU and the conference seemed like a match made in reactionary heaven. At the time, it appeared TCU would miss out on a BCS bowl in spite of its undefeated record and top five ranking. Membership in the Big East would ensure that a situation like that would never happen again.

By adding TCU (one of the country's most talked-about football programs), the Big East would regain some football credibility lost when Miami (FL), Virginia Tech and Boston College departed for the ACC.

Again, Thompson made a swift and wise decision. Hawaii was added (as a football-only member) to the (then) 10-team MWC, and the conference made it clear they were looking at options for team 12. Prognosticators (myself included) began considering and debating the merits of about a dozen programs. SMU, Houston, UTEP, Utah State, Tulsa and Montana were some of the most common names.

This morning, the game changed again. Multiple news sources are reporting that TCU was offered (and accepted) an all-sport bid to the Big East. It will likely be joined by either one or three more teams before this round of expansion is over.

Popular Big East expansion candidates now include (in no particular order) Central Florida, Memphis, Houston and East Carolina.

The Mountain West is now left with three options moving forward.

 

1. Go Forward with 10 Members

While in the Mountain West, TCU was a significant geographic outlier, over 500 miles form any of its fellow MWC members. By standing pat, the conference can rein in its geographic footprint and avoid some of the problems that plagued the 16-team WAC.

This is certainly a choice that the Mountain West would be wise to consider. However there are too many issues.

For starters, when recruiting the four WAC schools (Boise, Fresno, Nevada and Hawaii), I'm certain that increased competition and exposure were a big part of the conference's pitch. To abandon that now would serve as a sort of slap in the face to the MWC's newest members.

Though a BCS-AQ bid is pretty much out of the question, Craig Thompson owes it to his membership to at least explore adding two more schools and a conference championship game.

If this is the direction the MWC chooses to go, we may finally see a slowdown in conference expansion talks. If Thompson continues to expand, things will only get more convoluted.

 

2. Add Two Members from Outside Texas

For those of you that don't know much about the WAC's 16-team setup, geography ranging from Houston, TX to Idaho and Hawaii was one of the biggest reasons for the conference's failure. Because of this, I think the Mountain West should be hesitant to become a league that covers the exact same footprint as the old WAC.

If the conference chooses to expand, Craig Thompson must consider remaining in its current geographic footprint (read: without Texas/Oklahoma schools).

If the conference chooses to go this route, there are five programs that will get consideration: Utah State, New Mexico State, San Jose State, Idaho and Montana. If the Mountain West chooses to go this route, we can officially say goodbye to the WAC.

Up to this point, conference expansion has been fueled by two key factors: football success and media market size. Utah State would return the conference to TV sets in Utah (lost with the defections of BYU and Utah).

Montana (an FCS powerhouse) would add some football credibility. Montana has already indicated that it isn't particularly interested in moving its football program to the FBS.

Overall, the MWC doesn't add much in either of the two key areas.

Keep in mind that the four WAC defectors came to the MWC for increased football competition and exposure. Adding weak football programs would stand in direct contrast to the promises/assurances that were either made by Craig Thompson or assumed by the four schools.

If this is the direction, my money is on Utah State and New Mexico State as well as adding a non-football playing complement to Hawaii (such as Gonzaga). Though not adding much in terms of football power, this move would place firmly in the MWC in the top tier of "mid-major" basketball conferences. To my sensibilities, this seems like the most unlikely option.

 

3. Add Two Members from Texas/Oklahoma

Losing TCU caused two major issues. The first is the loss of the pipeline to Texas's vast media and recruiting resources.

It also marked the loss of the MWC's only private school.  This is important because a conference with a private school as a member does not have to make as much of its financial information public as a conference with all public schools. This is why the SEC has held on to Vanderbilt, the Big 12 kept Baylor and the Big Ten still has Northwestern.

Adding Texas/Oklahoma schools is the only way for the MWC to fully absorb the blow of a TCU defection.

To this point, both options I have presented leave the MWC with either 10 or 12 public schools. Electing to maintain its presence in the Texas and/or Oklahoma allows the MWC to consider private universities like SMU, Tulsa and Rice. If the Mountain West decides to go to 12 members, it will almost certainly include one of these three private universities for the aforementioned reasons. 

Though a solid football program, Tulsa would be an extreme geographic outlier (650-plus miles away from any current MWC school). Rice, on the other hand, has neither geography nor football success on its side. Rice is a last resort option.

Due to its location in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex and recent football success (under coaching guru June Jones and the Run-and-Shoot offense), SMU seems to be the most likely candidate to replace TCU. Winning the C-USA championship next week (against Big East candidate Central Florida) would go a long way to securing an MWC bid.

If you assume SMU will be school No. 11, the search now begins for a 12th and final member. The school chosen will need to serve as a travel partner and geographic rival to SMU. Doing that would hopefully prevent SMU from making a TCU-like defection five years down the road. Aforementioned Tulsa deserves consideration, as do public schools Houston and UTEP.

UTEP fits very well in the MWC geography and has a long history with all of the conference's schools (from their time in the WAC). It has a ready-made rivalry with New Mexico as well as SMU. UTEP brings a credible basketball program and an underrated media market (El Paso). Though not as successful, the UTEP football team outdraws Houston by nearly 15,000 fans per game.

On the other side of the Texas coin is Houston. The Houston program has experienced a renaissance under head coach Mike Sumlin and QB Case Keenum. The Cougars have beaten multiple top-25 teams recently. It also brings a solid basketball program (anyone remember Phi Slama Jamma?) and the nation's fourth-largest media market.

However, UH has always had trouble competing with Texas A&M and Texas for relevance in the Houston market. TV ratings and attendance have been painfully low for UH, especially given its market and recent success.

Also, Keenum will graduate before Houston can join the MWC, and Sumlin may be leaving sooner than later for a higher-profile job. There is no guarantee that Houston will be able to maintain its current success without Keenum and Sumlin.

Lastly, Houston is in consideration for Big East membership as a geographic rival and travel partner for TCU.

This is the most likely case in my book. SMU is my top choice for private school membership (followed by Tulsa, then Rice) with Houston as the leading candidate as school No. 12 (UTEP is a close second with Tulsa as option No. 3). The MWC stands to lose too much if it abandons the Dallas market and doesn't have a private school as a member.

 

Wrap-Up

As far as I can see, adding two Texas/Oklahoma schools (including a private school) is in the best interest of the MWC. Standing pat with 10 members is a close second. Expanding but not including any private schools or Texas schools makes no sense.

Posted on: November 19, 2010 3:10 pm
Edited on: November 19, 2010 3:12 pm
 

Hawaii to join Mountain West, What Move is Next?

Overnight, news began to break that the University of Hawaii will be moving from the WAC to the Mountain West for football and the Big West for basketball and non-revenue sports.  The addition of Hawaii pushes the Mountain West to a total of 11 teams.  To my sensibilities, this indicates that at least one more move will occur between now and the start of the 2012-13 academic year.  Either TCU will leave for the Big East (or Big XII) and the MWC will stand pat with 10 teams, the Mountain West will add one school to bring the league to an even 12 and add a conference championship game, or TCU will leave and the MWC will replace the Frogs with two teams.  Here are some of the possible moves, and my take on how likely they are.


TCU Joins the Big East

The popular rumor over the last several weeks has TCU taking its football program (and possibly entire athletic department) to the Big East in an attempt to increase the football relevance of both parties.  The short-term benefits for both parties are pretty obvious.  The Big East gains some of the football credibility that it lost in recent years and TCU gets a path to the BCS (and national championship) that many perceive as easier. 

The Big East intends to add at least two teams in the near future.  TCU and Central Florida are the current favorites, followed by East Carolina, Villanova, Temple, Memphis, and others in no particular order.  Currently, the Big East wants to add these schools as football only members, but the schools are holding out for full membership.  Should TCU join as a football-only member, it would likely move all other sports to the Missouri Valley conference as the MWC has indicated it won’t allow member schools to maintain membership without a football program. 

I think that in the end, TCU will choose the MWC over the Big East.  Geographically, the MWC is a better fit and TCU has a history with those schools that it doesn’t have with the Big East.  Over the long run, I feel that the prospects for the MWC as a football conference are greater than those of the Big East.


TCU Joins the Big XII

This is a move that makes a whole lot more sense than a move to the Big East.  If the Big XII is to survive over the long run, it will need to return to a 12-team, 2-division format.  In my book, TCU is on the short list of best options for Big XII expansion (along with Memphis, Houston, and BYU).   TCU provides another strong football program to bolster the conference.  It also adds another baseball power to rival Texas for conference supremacy. 

However, there are many negatives that get in the way of TCU joining the Big XII.  There are still many left over bad feelings from the breakup of the old SWC.  Also, TCU may add respect for the Big XII in football and baseball, but it detracts from Big XII basketball (currently the conference’s strongest sport).  Houston, BYU, and Memphis are all stronger basketball options.  Lastly, the Big XII already has the Dallas-Fort Worth Media Market well wrapped up.  Financially, the conference has little to gain from adding another Texas-based school.  Memphis and BYU (Colorado State or New Mexico as well, but not likely) serve as better choices for expanding the media “footprint” of the conference.


Expansion Options

When push comes to shove, I don’t see either of the previous options as workable for TCU.  Instead, I see the most likely move for the MWC is the addition of a 12th program to improve the conference’s ability to reach BCS-AQ status.  Here is a list of the candidates ranked in order of likelihood/benefit for the conference.

 

#7 Rice

Advantages: Rice has a history with many of the Mountain West schools from its days in the WAC immediately following the breakup of the SWC.  Rice adds the Houston TV market to the MWC.  Could add a potential geographic rival  

Negatives: Rice is not exactly a football power.  The Owls are not very competitive in C-USA, so I don’t think they will be able to be competitive in the MWC.  Rice won’t add anything to the conference’s profile and would likely detract from a bid for BCS-AQ status.  In terms of the media market, Rice has one of the smallest alumni bases in the Bowl Subdivision, and the Houston market would be better served by adding UH.  Houston is a geographic outlier in the current MWC. 

Likelihood: Zero—Rice is better off in C-USA and the MWC is better off without them.

 

#6 Tulsa

Advantages: Tulsa has a history with many MWC schools (same WAC connection as Rice).  The Tulsa market would be a welcome addition for the Mtn. Network.  The football program is stronger than Rice. 

Negatives: Much like Rice, Tulsa has a very small alumni base.  Though a relatively strong market, MWC games would play third fiddle to Oklahoma and OSU games.  I think there are some better markets.  The football program adds little to the conference’s resume.  Tulsa is a geographic outlier for the conference. 

Likelihood: Slightly better than Rice, razor thin—Tulsa is a better fit for C-USA

 

#5 Utah State

Advantages: Heading into this season, the MWC had a stranglehold on the Utah media market via BYU and Utah.  Starting next year, the MWC will have neither school, adding Utah State will keep the MWC relevant in Utah.  Utah State was offered and declined a to the conference several months ago.  The Aggie basketball program adds to an already strong MWC and helps cushion the blow of losing BYU and Utah.  USU has history with most of the MWC schools. 

Negatives: Though Utah State keeps the MWC on Utah televisions; USU is clearly the number three TV draw in the state and likely won’t help ratings in Utah.  When Utah State was invited, it was seen by most as a last-gasp attempt to keep BYU from leaving due to the close relationship between the schools.  The Aggies will likely not draw enough TV viewers to justify adding their weak football program and hurting the BCS-AQ bid.  Though good, the basketball program doesn’t make up for the lack of a strong football program.  As we all know, football is the driving force behind realignment. 

Likelihood: Slim—The football program just isn’t good enough and it doesn’t provide a strong enough TV draw.  It is not the best option for a non-Texas school, should the conference want to go in that direction.

 

#4 Montana

Advantages: The Montana football program is the class of the Championship Subdivision.  Having the Grizzlies should help the MWC football resume.  Montana has two national championships (1995-2001) and has appeared in five National Championship Games in the last decade (2000, 2001, 2005, 2008, 2009).  Montana is an untapped market for FBS football. 

Negatives: The Grizzlies have already declined one invite from an FBS conference (the WAC) and appear to be happy remaining an FCS powerhouse.  The Montana media market doesn’t compare to the markets available in Texas. 

Likelihood: Moderate—This is the best non-Texas option for the conference.  Though Montana said no to the WAC, the MWC is a potential BCS-AQ conference and has much more stability than the WAC.

 

#3 Houston

Advantages: UH is a traditionally strong school for both football and basketball.  The university is planning on investing heavily in upgrading its athletic facilities.  UH grants access the Houston media (and recruiting) market for the MWC schools.  The addition of a second Texas school helps solidify the conference’s foothold in Texas. 

Negatives: Houston is a geographic outlier for the MWC.  UH doesn’t have a traditionally strong fan base.  Texas A&M and UT are the big draws in the area.  Houston might be holding out for an eventual Big XII invitation.  UH doesn’t have the kind of history with MWC schools as the next two options. 

Likelihood: Strong—There are more advantages than disadvantages to adding Houston.  The MWC couldn’t go wrong with this one.

 

#2 UTEP

Advantages: The El Paso media market is stronger than many would expect.  Not only is there a large population, but also UTEP athletics have no competition for attention.  El Paso is a better geographic fit in the MWC than C-USA.  UTEP has a history with most of the MWC. 

Negatives: The football program probably the fourth best option strength-wise for the conference.  The addition of UTEP still leaves TCU as the major geographic outlier in the eastern half of the conference. 

Likelihood: Very Strong—This is really a case of 1 and 1-A in my book.  There are several factors that lead me to putting this option second.

 

#1 SMU

Advantages: SMU football is historically the strongest program on the list (its resume is comparable to TCU, minus the Frogs’ recent success).  Under June Jones, the Mustangs appear to be on their way back to national relevance.  SMU has a strong and rich alumni base that is more than willing to support the team.  Adding TCU’s primary rival in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex has two advantages.  First, it provides incentive for TCU to not leave should a “better offer” come around.  Second, it provides insurance should TCU leave, as the MWC will still have a foothold in the very important Dallas-Fort Worth market.  The University has a brand new football stadium. 

Negatives: Though traditionally strong, SMU has been less than stellar since receiving the NCAA death penalty.  Adding SMU would involve betting that the program will continue to improve under June Jones and/or his successor.  The University offers little in terms of adding to the conference’s media footprint.  SMU doesn’t bring much to the conference in sports other than football.  Adding SMU has the potential to be a very dangerous gamble. 

Likelihood: Very Strong—SMU is a sleeping giant of a football program.  Having the Mustangs is important both for keeping TCU and in a potential post-TCU apocalypse.

 

Thoughts?

This is where I come down on this issue.  What do you think?  Is there anything I misses?  Comments are encouraged and appreciated.

 

 


 
 
 
 
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