The Mountain West has applied for an exemption that would allow it to become an AQ conference for the next two seasons. They base that in part on their performance over the last four years, and in part because of an exemption granted to the Big East in the past. So let's look at the numbers.
The league is measure in three categories: highest rated team, average computer ranking of all teams, and a score based on teams in the top 25. It is measured over a four year period, based on this year's membership. Therefore, Utah and BYU do not count, but TCU and Boise State do, even though Boise was in the WAC the last three years.
The reason the MWC didn't qualify for AQ status outright and has to apply for an exemption is that the league is good at the top, but has no depth. The league does well in the two categories that measure top of the league performance. It is fifth in the highest rated team category, and has a score of 60.2% in the top 25 category (only 33% was required to apply for exemption).
In the category that measures all teams, the league is a distant seventh, with an average computer ranking of 61.3. The Big East is sixth at 50.2.
The problem is, the top two MWC teams in the rankings the last four years have been TCU and Boise State. Without them, the numbers aren't nearly as good, and both teams are leaving. TCU is already gone. The Broncos have just one more year. San Diego State is also leaving at the same time as Boise State. Fresno State, Nevada and Hawaii will join.
Without TCU and Boise State, the MWC would be the ninth rated league in the highest rated team category, an even more distant seventh in the average computer category (67.1) and would score only 6.9% in the top 25 category. Among the new lineup, only Nevada (15th) and Hawaii (24th) finished in the top 25 of any season in the last four years, both in 2010.
Those are numbers the presidents can't ignore, and the reason why the league won't get its exemption.
The Mountain West document states that the Big East was granted an exemption after the 2007 season to retain its AQ status. While I don't doubt that, I have been told repeated by Bill Hancock that there is no provision for removing AQ status from a league, which is why the Big East's status isn't in doubt for the next two years, so I am confused as to why such an exemption would have been necessary in 2008. In any event, the only category the Big East fell short in was the top 25 percentage, where it scored 49.11%, just below the 50% requirement. The MWC, even with it's current membership, cannot say is just barely missed in the category in which it failed to meet the standard.
The new Bigger East, which along with the Mountain West schools, has added Houston, SMU and UCF from Conference USA, is doing ok for the first two years of the cycle that the new members will count for, which is the 2010-13 seasons. The league is fifth so far in the high ranking category and a very comfortable sixth in the average computer rankings. They only score 29% in the top 25 category, but only three leagues, the SEC, Big Ten and Big 12 are doing better than 50% so far.
Of course, if this turns out to be true, all this will be moot.