June 1, 2011

Reviewing the Past, Predicting the future: Pac-12, MWC, and WAC

All three Division 1 football conferences of the West saw the effects of Expansion Crisis 2010. The Pac-10, Mountain West, and Western Athletic Conferences will all take on new profiles during this coming football season. The most prestigious, with help from a mad yet brilliant commissioner, placed itself at the precipice of the future.

The upstart levied a counter-punch upon its nearest rival so devastating that the effects may very well be fatal. All in all, things have changed in western college football during the past year. An important cog in understanding the implications ahead and the reasons behind it all is a proper appreciation of the attendance figures of the past year and how they will affect the future.

Source: NCAA 2010 Attendance Figures

Let's begin with a quick rundown of the past year's numbers, and then, move on to some key points of interests.

  • Fresno State and Hawaii outdrew Boise State. 
  • New Mexico outdrew Nevada. Let me say that again: 1-11 New Mexico outdrew 13-1 Nevada.
  • BYU still a mammoth in the midst of a MWC molehill re: attendance 
  • The Mountain West had its best year ever thanks to increases at AFA, SDSU, and TCU.
  • Idaho, San Jose State, and New Mexico State continue to struggle. 
  • Washington State should be ashamed of itself.
  • Arizona and Oregon State are on the rise.
  • USC and UCLA continue to fall, relatively of course.
How did/will Expansion Crisis 2010 affect the future MWC/WAC/Pac-12? 

The Mountain West saw the writing on the wall. With Utah bouncing to the Pac-10 and BYU concocting a secret combination to destroy the conference from within, Comrade Craig and Co did as good as they could have imagined after the dust settled.  The TCU departure added insult to injury, but the Horned Frogs are like a lady-of-the-night when it comes to conference affiliation. It was only a matter of time.

Boise State brings tremendous national recognition, a rabid fan-base, and a proven commodity on the field. Bronco fans also travel well and will do so more often with better places to attend. Securing Fresno State and Hawaii will help the conference's bottom line at the gate, not to mention being a soft landing competition wise when compared to BYU and Utah.  Nevada, while not packing the stadium, certainly has been on a forward slant as of late. We shall see how much with my man Colin Kapernick taking his talents to San Francisco. Losing BYU, which has averaged 60k for decades, as well Utah and TCU (40-45k) may have scuttled lesser conferences. Luckily for the Mountain West, it had an intuitive counter-attack. General Patton would be proud of you Mr. Thompson.

One thing is for sure: The area between the Sierra Nevadas and the Mississippi is not big enough for two non-AQ football conferences. At least not in the long-term. The MWC and WAC understood this last summer. This is why plans were concocted the way they were. Sadly for The Fighting Karl Bensons', the sword fell on the WAC.

The MWC beguiled every WAC team who averaged over 20,000 fans, leaving the WAC a shadow of its former self. (If that is even possible) You can see now why the MWC hasn't extended an invitation to Utah State. The Aggies aren't going anywhere and they bring little.  Expansion is not done and it is better to hold out hope for Brooklyn Decker than to settle for Hillary Clinton. Sorry Aggie fans. You really deserve better.

Kudos to Larry Scott for having the vision and gumption to do what he has done in just a year's time. While Scott's invitation to Texas and its step-child compadres from the Big 12 was eventually declined, it showed the nation that the Pac-10 was serious about progress. The television deal struck early this month was but another example. Utah and Colorado add little in terms of name recognition and attendance increase, but the Utes and Buffs are certainly no slouches either.

Scott is biding his time, I imagine, for the day when his dream comes to pass. Utah should be thankful that the Pac-16 didn't happen (as Colorado was included in that offer). Colorado should be thankful it built up a few decades of prestige, not to mention the Denver TV market. In the end, sloppy seconds are okay as long as you marry the girl.

What will the future hold? That is anyone's guess. I can't imagine the WAC staying cogent for more than a few years. It is a slow death for a once proud conference. The leftovers will find themselves either in new D1 conferences (La Tech to the Sun Belt or CUSA; USU to the MWC) or to FCS relegation. It is a sad truth of modern college football, a program simply can't afford to be below the poverty line.

The Mountain West is positioned nicely for the future. Thompson and his boys can sit back and wait for another opportunity to present itself. A dream scenario of a Big 12 dissolution, with the unwashed remnants ending up in the MWC fold, is still a possibility. No one is a bigger proponent of A&M flipping Texas the bird and joining the SEC.

The Pac-12? Well, with the help of Mr. Scott, the conference is again at the top of discussion in college football. Super Conferences seem to be upon us. Ironically, it was Scott, after looking at the successes and failures of the 16-team WAC, put this idea again into motion. If I were a betting man, I bet Scott finishes this decade as the one who saw it coming from the get-go.

Further Information:

Breakdown of 2010 attendance by conference


Krizoitz said...

*Looks at map*. Psssst there are FOUR 1-AA conferences west of the Mississippi. Big 12 remember? :D

Krizoitz said...

And by 1-AA I meant 1-A

Zach Bloxham said...

Duly noted. :-)

Broncodude said...

I just don't think the 16 team conf. is going to happen, look for 12 to be the norm, better chance of another BCS bowl added in Dallas, cotton bowl.
Will that involve the MWC, probably not but we can hope can't we.


Brett Hein said...

Thanks for that Krizoitz -- I fixed it :)

krizoitz said...


Given how close the Pac-16 was to happening and given that the instabilities in the Big 12 still exist that got us as far as we did last summer I think 16 team confernces will happen. Especially when you add in the media rights money.

Consider Texas A&M. The Big 12's revenue sharing is weighted towards the Longhorns and we know there is at least some mutual interest between them and the SEC. It wouldn't surprise me to see the Aggies bolt the Big 12 before too long (and possibly take Baylor with them in the end). A Big 12 without the Aggies is probably not sustainable as a group and would be the push needed to get the Pac-16 to happen. The SEC would in addition to A&M and Baylor

I think Baylor is a given, there will be no room for them in the Pac-16 and the Texas powers that be aren't going to want the bears left out of an AQ conference, I believe one of the conditions for A&M to the SEC is Baylor too which works out fine if the SEC is on its way to 16 teams. They can then add VaTech and UVA (or Clemson and GTech, or Miami and Florida Stat, but for expanding footprint reasons I think its VaTech and UVA) to go to 16 teams and not have to change their existing divisions up.

The Big Ten and ACC will follow suit, cannibalizing the Big East and voila , four 16 team super conferences.

krizoitz said...

BTW, there's actually a fourth D-1 football conferences in the west, the Big Sky ;-)

(yes at this point I'm just being picky, but its fun)

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