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August 24, 2010Could UCF finally be elevated to "BCS status?"
If Conference USA and the Mountain West Conference have their way, that's exactly what would happen.
The commissioners of the two leagues, Britton Banowsky of C-USA and the Mountain West's Craig Thompson, met in Colorado last Thursday to discuss ways they could work together to achieve their common goal of inclusion at the big boy's table.
In its present form, the Bowl Championship Series awards automatic bids to the champions of just six conferences - the SEC, ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, PAC-10 and the Big East - while leaving out leagues such as C-USA, the MWC and the WAC.
The hurdles for a "non-BCS" team to qualify for a major bowl are much more stringent, though teams like Boise State, Utah, TCU and Hawaii have qualified in recent years.
Perhaps more importantly, there is a considerable perception gap with the current system if you're not in one of those six automatic qualifier conferences.
CBSSports.com was among the media outlets to report on last week's meeting between C-USA and the MWC and the play-in game possibility.
In an interview Tuesday afternoon with Pirate Radio 1250 AM in Greenville, N.C., East Carolina University Chancellor Steve Ballard says he was hopeful an agreement could be reached where one team from either league - decided via a play-in game of champions - would be guaranteed a BCS bid in future years.
"I think Conference USA, through a lot of hard work, has positioned itself to get into the probability of an automatic qualifier status working with the Mountain West," Ballard told the radio station. "There's a lot of work left to do to get that actually in writing But both the Mountain West and Conference USA seem really anxious to make that happen. So I am very optimistic."
Ballard discounted the "merger" rumors, though admitted that it could be a possibility "down the road."
He also said the BCS, in its current format, is under a lot of pressure for more inclusion, particularly with the success of schools like Boise State which is ranked No. 3 in the preseason AP Top 25.
"We're hammering away almost every day," Ballard said. "We had an executive committee meeting of Conference USA just this week. We're working on it. I think there's reason to be hopeful, but it's going to take a lot of work."
UCF President John Hitt is the chairman of Conference USA's board of directors.
Pirate Radio 1250 AM Transcript of their interview with East Carolina Chancellor Steve Ballard
There's been a lot of craziness in the offseason with conference affiliation. What have your talks been with Conference USA, there's been talk of affiliation with the Mountain West, so what's the latest on conference realignment and where ECU fits in?
"We've actually been working on conference realignment for years and years and doing everything we could. The one thing I want to make sure everybody knows is that I believe (Athletic Director) Terry Holland and everybody at ECU including and all the way up to the board have done everything we can do to position ourselves for the best possible conference affiliation. The bad news is there is no question in my mind that TV revenues control everything. All the things that we can control, the eight or nine variables from facilities to performance to integrity and all those things, may account for 10 to 15 percent of any conference realignment.
"If you can't bring new revenues to whoever might be looking at you, and unfortunately that has an awful lot to do with the number of TV sets and a little bit to do with the perceived recruiting area that you're in, then you're not going to be considered like univeristies in the bigger cities unfortunately. That does not ever help Greenville.
"So we worked very hard and we want to be ready if anything happens. The most encouraging thing to me is this: I think Conference USA, through a lot of hard work, has positioned itself to get into the probability of an automatic qualifier status working with the Mountain West. There's a lot of work left to do to get that actually in writing, but both the Mountain West and Conference USA seem really anxious to make that happen. So I am very optimistic."
Do you see it as some sort of merger with the conference or a partnership with two separate conferences and they have kind of an alliance?
"More of the latter probably, but with the possibility of mergers down the road. A championship game where the champion of each conference would play and the winner of that game would be a automatic qualifier."
It sounds like great on paper, but would the powers that be and the BCS agree to that?
"One never knows about the powers that be and the BCS because they're all about protecting themselves."
They don't want to split up the pie any more that would cause them to give a little bit to someone that's not in the club right now.
"That's true, but they also get a lot of criticism and quite well deserved for not letting the other conferences in and the other schools in. I think alliances like this, that bring in schools like ECU, Houston, Boise State, schools that have really done well. Boise is ranked, what, third this year? I think puts a lot of pressure on them to show that they're not sharing the pot, that they're letting some others that can perform into that elite club."
[Then a lot of stuff about a playoff system - the ECU chancellor is for it, although he doesn't want to see 16, 17 game seasons, and the host complaining about playing on Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, etc., and the ECU chancellor agreeing in principle but saying that's when ESPN wants to show C-USA games. And then they revisited the alliance scenario]
Hopefully you can get together with the other presidents and chancellors of not only Conference USA, but these other conferences that aren't in the BCS, so hopefully you can hammer away and find a way to make it more inclusive for schools like ECU.
"That's exactly right. We're hammering away almost every day. We had an executive committee meeting of Conference USA just this week. We're working on it. I think there's reason to be hopeful, but it's going to take a lot of work."