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Fighting an uphill battle

Scott Haynes, College Football Senior Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - This week, the BCS will hear a proposal by the Mountain West Conference to bring about an eight-team playoff system for the national title. The only problem is, while the BCS will go through the motions, its mind is already made up.

The old adage "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" has been replaced by "even if it is broke, who cares when money is involved?"

The SEC has already passed on the idea, making a statement to that extent following its spring meetings. While I understand the SEC's desire to maintain a stranglehold on one of the spots in the big game, when will common sense finally win out and bring about a change?

We all know the answer to that one. As long as television and bowl game revenue continue to flow freely to the power conferences, nothing will change. That point is underscored by the four-year, $500 million BCS package from ESPN that will go into effect in 2011. Now that ESPN has the rights to BCS games, don't expect anymore spirited "playoff" talk from the sports media giant. There is absolutely no way the powers that be will allow on-air personalities to engage in talk about the merits of such a thing, with half a billion invested on the other side of the argument. There is also the danger of ESPN manipulating things behind the scenes to set up the marquee matchups that it wants, considering the power the company has to influence what gets viewed nationally, and when.

The real losers in this deal are the smaller conferences. The Mountain West has refused to sign the deal, but that of course is a hollow threat, as some of that money will find its way to the MWC coffers and the conference isn't about to let that slip away on principle. It isn't the first time the conference has had a problem with ESPN. In 2004, the MWC declined a contract renewal with ESPN, as the deal heavily emphasized weekday games, something the conference wasn't interested in being a part of. That spawned the birth of the Mtn. and the jury is still out on the conference's exclusive television network.

Not sure if you have ever watched a game on the Mtn., and don't get me wrong, the network certainly tries, but its broadcasts are lacking in a lot of areas. Getting national exposure is a necessity if the Mountain West is to really make strides forward.

This will have to be done the hard way. Getting no support from the BCS will force the MWC to take the long road to reach its objective. What the Mountain West needs to do is sign the deal with ESPN (which it will inevitably do) and then go out and start beating top-tier programs from the six major conferences on a regular basis. Beefing up its schedule year-in and year-out will lend some credibility to its request to be taken seriously and treated as an equal. Running the table in a non-BCS conference isn't, in and of itself, worthy of a national title shot. However, knocking off highly regarded programs throughout a season and then finishing with an unblemished record would be hard to argue against. It will also help in recruiting and make things very uncomfortable for the BCS.

While not in the Mountain West, Boise State certainly made people stand up and notice with its upset win over Oklahoma a couple of years ago in the Fiesta Bowl. The Mountain West's elite, namely Utah and BYU, possess the talent to do the same. Just ask Nick Saban and his Crimson Tide, who were a game away from playing for the national title this past season, but instead were throttled by Utah in the Sugar Bowl (31-17), as the Utes capped off a 13-0 season with the win.

That was a statement win for Utah and the Mountain West to an extent. A proven track record over a sustained period of time is what is needed from not only Utah, but BYU as well. Throw a talent-rich TCU squad into the mix, and the Mountain West may just have three opportunities most seasons to make things interesting.

That being said, the SEC, Big 12, ACC, Big Ten, Big East and Pac-10 are probably safe for now, but just how long that situation remains is tough to say.

It's not easy to ignore the elephant in the room, especially if the pachyderm is constantly stepping on your feet.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Scott Haynes at shaynes@sportsnetwork.com.
Scott Haynes

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