By Brian Murphy
Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson said Wednesday that he expects that the new Bowl Championship Series format will do away with automatic qualifying (AQ) conferences.
"The commissioners that I've spoken to, I think there's strong sentiment that there may not be automatic qualifiers," Thompson said Wednesday in Las Vegas.
Thompson said he would not be opposed to doing away with AQ conferences. The Mountain West has long been trying to become an AQ conference, one whose champion is guaranteed a spot in one of five BCS bowl games regardless of record or ranking.
Earlier this month, the Mountain West requested a BCS exemption for the next two seasons. The league reached performance requirements to request the exemption.
"I would rather eliminate automatic qualifiers across the board over us getting automatic qualifier status for the next two years," Thompson said.
Though some have speculated that the bowl games would simply contract with power conferences like the SEC, Big 12 and Big 10, Thompson said the Mountain West is willing to take its product to the marketplace.
"We have played in four BCS games in 13 years. And they say you have access you haven't had before. Well, yeah. We're very grateful for those four times in 13 years we've played in BCS bowls. But there probably has been three or four times we probably should have played in BCS bowls and we didn't," Thompson said.
"I think our people are willing to take the risk and say you know what, let's go in the marketplace with this bunch. ... What are you really giving up?"
• Thompson said he was disappointed that no officials from the Sugar Bowl contacted him about inviting Boise State to the game. Thompson spent 12 years in the city as commissioner of the Sun Belt. Sugar Bowl Executive Director Paul Hoolahan has said the Mountain West did not contact them.
"I know everybody on that committee," Thompson said. "My phone rings in as well."
Thompson said the Sugar Bowl missed an opportunity by inviting Michigan and Virginia Tech over the Broncos.
"Michigan was their No. 1. Done. I went to several of the Virgina Tech Sugar Bowls in the '80s and '90s when I lived there. That's who they wanted. That's their prerogative," he said. "They can choose whoever they want. They have a missed opportunity because Boise State would travel 20,000 people to New Orleans and have one heck of a party."
• The Mountain West announced a two-year affiliation with the Hawaii Bowl beginning in 2012. It will be the fifth bowl tie-in for the league. Four of the bowls are played in Mountain West stadiums — at San Diego State (Poinsettia Bowl), UNLV (MAACO Bowl Las Vegas), New Mexico (New Mexico Bowl) and now Hawaii (Hawaii Bowl). The league's other bowl tie-in is with the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La.
• Thompson said there was little the Mountain West could do to persuade Boise State to stay in the league and not leave for the Big East in football.
"The toughest thing these days about a conference is you've always had to balance between individual institutions and the conference. The conference affiliation is absolutely secondary to what I'm going to do for my institution, and it's challenging," Thompson said.
• Thompson said the Mountain West and Conference USA continue their discussions about a potential merger. He said the Mountain West has two options: repopulate its league with two or three teams after the defections of Boise State and San Diego State or go larger and do something that will stabilize the league with 16 or 18 teams.
"I just want to get to stability. This is all I do. This is all I’ve done," Thompson said.
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