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Pac-12, MWC Alliance Makes Dollars, Sense

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Non-conference games like this one between San Diego State and Washington last season would become commonplace if the Pac-12 and MWC formed an alliance. Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images.
Non-conference games like this one between San Diego State and Washington last season would become commonplace if the Pac-12 and MWC formed an alliance. Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images.

For the last two months, rumors have circulated regarding an alliance between the Mountain West and the Pac-12.

It’s the latest fad in college football, these so-called alliances. The ACC and Big 12 have been in “exploratory talks” about a partnership since January and the Big 10 and Pac-12 were flirting with the idea until talks died at the negotiating table last year.

Every proposed alliance has a different level of commitment, but the general gist is two conferences agree to schedule non-conference games with each other, share officiating crews, split marketing costs and possibly create play dates for coaches' kids on the third Tuesday of every month. 

It’s a lot like that promise ring you gave your girlfriend in high school: it symbolizes a certain level of commitment, but if/when something better comes along, you could still bail out without all the legal ramifications that come with a full-blown marriage. 

This proposed alliance won’t put the MWC on par with the SEC or the Big 10 in terms of bowl inclusion, but if it goes through, there’s still plenty to get excited about.

Out Of Conference Scheduling Gets An Upgrade

This year Boise State’s out of conference slate consists of Washington, Tennessee-Martin, Southern Miss, and BYU. Not exactly a gauntlet of traditional football powerhouses.  While it means the Broncos are lined up nicely for another season of 10 or more wins, it also means a school from a power conference with an inferior record can — and probably will — jump them in the BCS standings when quality wins and strength of schedule come into play.

This is the nightmare that high-end mid-majors face when piecing together a non-conference schedule: wins against bad teams don’t help, and quality FBS opponents don’t want to take the risk of losing a game. 

Having three out of conference games against automatic qualifying opponents would not only aid in scheduling, it would improve the strength of schedule for every team in the MWC thereby raising the profile of the conference in the view of the computer polls. 

Just having tough games on the schedule doesn’t solve the problem, though. MWC schools still need to win some of the games to make it worthwhile. 

Smarter Finances

Accountants across the MWC are sitting at their desks with their fingers crossed hoping this alliance comes to fruition because there’s a lot of money to be made — and saved — by making this happen.

Every conference has experienced a drop in attendance since 2010, and many programs are trying to0 get that lost revenue back. Nothing sells tickets in mid-major markets like bringing in a marquee name like USC or Oregon

For the MWC, a big name like that means more than increased ticket sales. A game against a school with a national following means the potential of a nationally-televised game and a payday of up to $500,000 under the new television rights agreement that goes into effect this year. 

The alliance will save the conference money as well. Splitting costs for marketing and officiating will help, but the big savings will come in the reduced travel. A trip for San Diego State up to the Coliseum in Los Angeles proves to be much more cost effective than the cross country flight to the Horseshoe in Columbus that they will make this year without sacrificing much in strength of schedule.

New Natural Rivalries

There are 24 teams between the Pac 12 and the MWC; seven of those teams are based in California.  Is it unreasonable to think that San Jose State University and Cal would make a great rivalry with only 46 miles between campuses? What about putting a guarantee that Utah and Utah State wage the Battle of the Brothers on an annual basis?

One of the travesties of the great college conference migration has been the death of so many traditional rivalries. It’s time college football creates a few new ones in return.

All of it, of course, depends on two conferences getting together and giving each other a promise ring.