Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Why the delicious nougaty candy-related reference to lead off this post? Because Nevada and Fresno State are, as the tagline goes, not going anywhere for a while . Their move into the Mountain West and out of the ever-wobbly WAC has been delayed by a year, until 2012, as part of the resolution of a WAC lawsuit that asked the Wolf Pack and Bulldogs to either wait it out one extra season or fork over a cool $5 million each.
That kind of money doesn't grow on non-AQ trees, so both schools will pay a meager $900,000 (though they'll also forfeit their 2011-2012 league distribtuion check , making the true price tag a bit heftier) and spend another year lining up against the remnants of the WAC. That conference and commisioner Karl Benson came out the clear losers in this latest round of west coast conference expansion, but this is a major win that will give Benson a desperately-needed extra year in which to cobble together a strategy for keeping the 48-year-old conference afloat.
Everyone else involved in the MWC-WAC-BYU expansion brouhaha, though, comes out a loser in the short-term of today's decision. Let's count the ways:
Nevada and Fresno : Not that either program will likely be looking at a BCS berth in 2011, but nonetheless that goal will be all-but-impossible playing in a watered-down, Boise State -less WAC that will rank with the Sun Belt and MAC as the FBS's worst. Maybe more practically, a MWC schedule would be substantially more appealing to ticket-holders than going another round with San Jose State and Idaho . (The proud Pack men's hoops program would have been much more likely to earn an NCAA Tournament at-large berth out of the MWC, too.)
Boise State : Speaking of the Broncos, the 2011 MWC will likely offer a better strength-of-schedule quotient than the 2011 WAC, thanks to the likes of TCU , Air Force , and a rejuvenated San Digeo State . But without the Pack and the Bulldogs (or, of course, deserters BYU or Utah ), the sad-sack bottom half of the MWC still projects to be so weak that there won't be that much difference. If the Broncos do mount another undefeated charge at the national title game, tilts against known quantities like Nevada and Fresno would have come very much in handy.
The Mountain West: The MWC keeps trying to push the rock that is automatic qualification up the hill that is the BCS , and it keeps rolling downhill. A league with Boise added to the Utah-BYU-TCU axis was a lock, but the Utes and Cougars jumped ship. A league with Nevada and Fresno adding depth to the TCU-Boise axis also stands a good shot given the Big East 's current woes, but now that league won't start play until 2012, by which time it's possible a bigger fish picks off the geographically-distant Horned Frogs. (There's already rumors about TCU being offered a spot in the Big East.)
After today, the league seems more than ever to be merely running to stand still.