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MWC Commish Craig Thompson speaks

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Frank Schwab of the Colorado Springs did a phone interview with Mountain West Conference Commisioner Craig Thompson the day after BYU announced it's intentions of becoming independent in football and joining the West Coast Conference in all other sports.

Schwab hit on some great topics and Thompson was pretty open with his answers.  The Mountain West had a game plan for BYU leaving earlier with Fresno State and Nevada.  The main question is now - Where do we go from here?  The newcomers may be forced to wait till 2012 to officially join the conference which would leave us at 8 teams in 2011 with Boise joining the party.

Can the Mountain West still achieve BCS AQ status?

The next move will almost certainly involve Conference USA. Thompson said merging the conferences was less likely than having a joint football championship game. That would hopefully lead to an automatic qualifier spot in the Bowl Championship Series. He said that there has only been a three-hour meeting between him and C-USA officials, but some agreement will be discussed further.  

"We’re way far away from something, but the meetings will continue," Thompson said.

BCS? Good.  Throwing out lot in with Conference USA? Bad.  I see this as the BCS throwing the Conferences their leftovers and locking the MAC, Sun Belt  and WAC outside in the yard.  Even without Utah and BYU the Mountain West is still a better conference than CUSA.  Boise and TCU are both national title contenders and Air Force could crack the top 25.  Also Air Force demolished Houston in the Armed Forces Bowl which was the top team in the conference this year.   

Thompson lamented the loss of "rivalries, allegiances and camaraderie" in conferences. He said he longed for the days of the Southwest Conference, saying those conference rivalries were "a way of life." Over this year the Mountain West has been in the middle of the conference shake-ups – losing Utah to the Pac-10, then adding Boise State, before the second round when it added Nevada and Fresno State from the Western Athletic Conference, only to ultimately lose BYU

 Losing BYU was the second longest rivalry that Wyoming had.  It would be pretty hard to imagine Wyoming and CSU in seperate leagues and no longer playing the Border War.  BYU might not have considered Wyoming a big rival but playing 77 times in football is a big deal.  Everyone in the Mountain West considers BYU a rival because they are just so fun to hate.

Although Thompson had talked proudly about the lack of an exit fee in the conference, he said that will be changing.

"I think we’ll change that policy," Thompson said. "That will be one of the first orders of business. That’s not a good business model."

Thank goodness!  Did they notice that other conferences doe have an exit fee and it can help keep a school within the conference longer or least get you some compensation when a team bolts.  I don't want Thompson to become like Karl Benson chasing after teams for a $5M exit fee but there should a penalty of some type.  Otherwise other schools will just be cherry picked by BCS conferences until the Mountain West is in shambles.

The biggest problem with BYU was the television contract, and Thompson acknowledged the conference will work on distribution issues. He said he doesn’t think the conference’s plan, using its own network The mtn. to broadcast games was flawed, because many conferences don’t get the exposure that the Mountain West does.

"If you ask around, a lot of people look at this and say it’s good for us," Thompson said.

He did acknowledge he wants the network to be in more households.

"Distribution is huge," Thompson said. "Unfortunately people thought this was going to be an ESPN equivalent."

A deal with Comcast needs to be reached to expand the viewership.  Even some type of premium service to view games on the weekend would be nice.  I would pay $100-$150 if I could watch the Mtn on weekends to see Wyoming play since I live out of the region.  I could also a deal being struck with CUSA and CBS College Sports since both conferences share them as a media partner.