MWC, SEC commissioners discuss BCS

Updated: July 22, 2009, 6:29 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

While the commissioner of the Mountain West Conference says he'll keep pushing for changes to college football's postseason bowl selection system, his counterpart at the Southeastern Conference doesn't forsee a playoff format in his tenure.

WAC commissioner Craig Thompson agreed that change will not come fast. He said Wednesday it could take five years to get any change to the Bowl Championship Series system. But he wants a revamped system.

"We feel a change needs to be made and inclusion needs to be broader," he said.

"I really don't see it," SEC commissioner Mike Slive said of a playoff in an interview with ESPN on Wednesday. "You know, based on the current makeup of presidents and chancellors and commissioners, I don't see a full-blown playoff in the offing."

Slive was part of a plus-one postseason proposal that didn't gain momentum. When asked about the wait for a playoff system, Slive said: "Well, for as long as I'm here. There is a lot of discussion with the Congress and the President. The difficulty with the discussion is when you drill down and it's very difficult to even see how it would work. There are issues in any kind of postseason format. It's really a complex matter."

Slive said it's important to distinguish between his support of a plus-one as opposed to a playoff with more than four teams.

"A lot of people mistake my interest in the plus one for a playoff," Slive said. "Because I'm not a playoff advocate. I thought the plus one was something that could be contained. And would work. And was in the best interest of our league. But it just didn't go anywhere."

Thompson told conference media in southern Nevada that in the meantime, the MWC became the last conference to sign a broadcasting contract with ESPN for the 2011-14 seasons.

The MWC has been lobbying Congress and the BCS for bowl selection changes since Utah went undefeated last year but was shut out of a national championship game.

Thompson says the conference agreed to the ESPN deal so MWC athletes wouldn't be denied a chance to compete in the nation's showcase football games.

"We couldn't take our kids voluntarily out of the chance to play in a BCS bowl game," Thompson said during a state-of-the-conference address to media members at a Las Vegas-area casino resort. "As much as we would like to see change in the system, it is the only system."

At issue are the number of automatic bids awarded to conferences for postseason play in top-tier bowls, and the money those appearances bring.

Six conferences -- the ACC, Big East, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-10 and SEC -- get automatic BCS bids, plus about $18 million each.

The Mountain West, which doesn't get an automatic bid, calls the system unfair. It has proposed an eight-team playoff featuring first-round play in the four top current BCS bowls -- Sugar, Orange, Rose, Fiesta. Winners would advance to a championship.

In a telephone interview, BCS administrator Bill Hancock acknowledged criticism of the current system, which picks two top BCS teams for a championship game based on two polls and six computer rankings.

"We know the BCS is not perfect," Hancock said from Kansas City. "But it is the best proposal that has been presented that meets the needs of all 11 conferences."

Last year's championship matched 12-1 Florida against 12-1 Oklahoma, while undefeated Utah beat Southeast Conference powerhouse Alabama, 31-17.

"The fact is, six conferences had individual bowl deals before the BCS," Hancock said of the system that began in 1998. "The BCS has to offer them at least as good a deal as they had before, or they wouldn't participate."

Hancock added that the other five conferences can earn an automatic qualification, depending on their teams' performances over a four-year span.

Thompson vowed to "fight within and challenge within, and try to coerce and convince and cajole ... our fellow 10 conferences to change the system over the next couple years."

Thompson, the only commissioner the Mountain West has had since the conference started in 1998, said he was proud of the rising level of play by the nine conference schools -- TCU, BYU, Utah, Air Force, UNLV, Colorado State, New Mexico, San Diego State and Wyoming.

He said the MWC would continue its $265,000 contract with a Washington lobbying firm to keep the BCS issue before Congress, which held hearings on the matter May 1.

But he said MWC efforts weren't connected with calls by Utah state Attorney General Mark Shurtleff and Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch for investigations of whether the BCS violates federal antitrust laws.

"I don't know what those people are going to do," Thompson said, adding that he felt that as league commissioner the best way to elbow into the BCS was for MWC teams to win games.

"If you perform and you win games and you're playing quality opponents and you're beating the Oklahomas, the Alabamas, the UCLAs, the Michigans, and all the people we've beaten," he said, "that should be our statement."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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