Wednesday, December 14, 2011

So Long, Old Friend...




One of the long expected negative by-products of the stadium renovations has always been the loss of Section V, our little hooligan hotzone in the TCUniverse. Now, it finally looks like that day is coming. Via SID Mark Cohen's twitter feed, here is a current picture of the first stages of the east side take down. As you can see, Section V has not yet been touched- possibly because WWHD has handcuffed himself to his seat and is daring them to come after him- but its not much longer for the world in any case. If possible, go pay your last respects to the only section in Amon G Carter Stadium that you can be threatened with a restraining order for being a fan. We hardly knew ye...

Mountain West Begging for Love and Affection.

Craig T dedicates this slow jam to the BCS Conferences

Think for a minute back to last spring. In case you're too lazy to click thru and deduce the information for yourself, here's what was going on: Conference expansion was reaching a fever pitch and, amid rumors of the then Pac 10 and Big Ten going on raiding sprees, Craig T took a stand and offered Boise State a lifeline into the MWC. At that particular moment in time, Utah had not yet made the step up to the big leagues of the Pac 12 and BYU was content to stay in their sandbox and cry, but in the context of the MWC. There were also rumblings that Thompson would eventually extend invites to Fresno State and Nevada to shore up the middle of the Conference and the MWC would make a serious case for a BCS auto bid. Correction: The BCS WOULD have extended an Auto Bid. Had that formation of teams remained together, the MWC would have had at least as clear cut of a case for BCS inclusion as the Big East, and probably a better one. Halcyon days, indeed.

Of course, a lot has changed since then. Utah, BYU, TCU, Boise and San Diego State are gone. In their place, a Fresno team that fired the coach who made them a program in the first place, a Colin Kaepernickless Nevada and Hawaii and whatever opinion you may have regarding them. Meanwhile, UNLV and New Mexico are arguably the two worst programs in division 1 football and I'm not sure Colorado State is much better. There has been talk of a CUSA/MWC merger, but even if that happens, with SMU, Houston and UCF gone, no one is going to argue your case is much stronger. Bottom line, only a fool would think this MWC is deserving of a bid.

But if you think that's going to stop Craig from trying, then you clearly don't know Craig.

There's a criminally underwatched TV show on IFC called The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret in which the main character, played by David Cross, gets in over his head by accepting a job he had no business taking and eventually destroys his life and the lives of those around him. Isn't that a pretty perfect metaphor for Craig? Think about it. Craig Thompson came to the MWC in 1998 fresh off a stint as Commissioner of the Sun Belt Conference. You'll recall that 1999 is the year the Mountain West started, so if you do the math, Craig is the only Commissioner the Conference has ever had. And things started out fine - he took the leftovers from the super WAC merger, oversaw the first BCS buster in Utah in 2004, scored an acceptance from TCU before the 2005 season and rode the success of Utah, TCU and, lesser, BYU almost all the way to the big kids table. Craig was walking tall and making his case as one of the more successful Commissions in any sport.

But what is it they say about flying too close to the sun?

Craig's downfall started a couple of years back when, tired of having his teams play weekday games, he declined an extension of the league's ESPN contract in favor of matching up with the likes of CSTV/CBS College Sports and Versus in order to... continue playing weekday games. Ask the 2007/2008 Horned Frogs how that whole situation worked out. Seeing the success of the Big Ten Network, Thompson tried to get an early jump on things by starting his own network, the mtn. This is a great idea in theory. By having their own network, the Mtn. West has an individual forum to get their name out there and drum up interest from casual eyeballs around the country. Did I say individual? Oh, pardon, I meant isolated because, unless you live in Colorado or have DirecTV with the added sports tier, you ain't watching. And even if you DO qualify, you might not be watching. Did you see the second half of the TCU/Wyoming game? Oh, that's right - technical difficulties kept it off the air. Have you tried to watch a basketball game lately? If you can stomach the extraordinarily apathetic announcing, actually trying to make out the identity of the players in the lowest of lo-def resolutions is next to impossible. TCU, Boise and Utah have taken turns being the second- or even best- teams in the country the past couple of years. Problem is, when only a tiny percentage of the country can see your games, you're never going to get the benefit of the doubt. The Rose Bowl was amazing, and we probably weren't ever going to be in the Title game discussion, and the same can be said with our Fiesta Bowl team. But what about Utah's Sugar Bowl team not even getting a sniff over 1 loss title game participants? Or TCU and Boise getting boxed out of the BCS this year? I'm not here to argue whether or not a two loss MWC Champ or a 1 loss MWC runner up deserve a bid. It's the fact that we were never genuinely in the discussion at all. A LOT of this has to do with our lack of visibility playing all of our games on little watched, premium networks. Thanks, Craig.

Speaking of visibility, bowl games are partially designed just for that specific purpose and are a great springboard for pre season rankings. Actually, what am I saying? That's pretty much ALL they're designed for because, as Death to the BCS and every other pro playoff proponent since then has pointed out, they're certainly not designed to generate income. Getting your team into the Bowl week following Xmas and New Years can be vital to the amount of attention you will receive the following year. Oh, what's that? What's that you say? ONE MWC team is playing after Christmas Day this year? Your league winner is playing a bowl 4 days before Xmas and only getting a half a million dollar payout? Your third place team is playing in the VERY FIRST bowl game of the season? Your fourth place team is playing in the NEW ORLEANS BOWL a full WEEK before Xmas Day? That's some good visibility right there! We make fun of BYU for taking their ball and going home, but they're playing in a post Xmas Day Bowl game, not to mention they play nearly every one of their games on ESPN or their very own, Mormon approved network which generates more money than any of our league contracts. BYU was not a very talented team this year, but if you followed the rankings closely they were always right on the peripheral of the Top 25. Not being relegated to Vs. and the mtn. and getting in bed with ESPN certainly had something to do with that. Correction, it had EVERYTHING to do with that.

But, of course, the Craig's coup-de-grace was most certainly the way in which he bungled the Boise State/TCU situation this year. We've talked it to death, but if we're being honest, it is one of my prouder moments as a TCU fan, so it's always worth another round of chatter. It's easy to forget in the euphoric aftermath of escaping the MWC AND the Big East for the Big 12 plus the win in Idaho, but the deck was absolutely STACKED against us to win the Championship this year. Craig and his minions probably had the trophy engraved with Boise's name the day the league voted to move the defacto Championship game from Fort Worth to Boise. But ooooooooooh boy did we drink his milkshake. And, for that matter, Boise drank his milkshake too by bolting for the Big East. Not that you can blame them; Boise's reasons for leaving the MWC were exactly the same as ours were for leaving the Big East. The Conference ultimately being entered into was not the same Conference either of us signed up to join. Even had Boise won on November 12th, they were still making the move. Craig proved his fickle worth this year. Being a month removed from the situation just makes it even more hilarious.

Which brings us to what I teased above. Basically, the Mountain West has authorized Thompson to request AQ status for the MWC when the current evaluation period is up. It's funny the way they word it - they AUTHORIZED him, as if it was some sort of huge decision.
"Nah, I think we should just embrace our inevitable status as CUSA, jr without a fight!" Actually, some of those guys are probably that dumb. Can you IMAGINE the reaction he's going to get when he takes his proposal to the powers that be? We can use U-Stream and the like to televise a flag football game between Kevin Durant and LeBron James... why can't we set one up for a live camera feed following Thompson during this process? It'd be the feel good comedy of the year!!!

I'll be honest and admit that I'm not entirely in sync with how the evaluation process works. But even if they are able to use the merits of Utah, Boise and TCU in making their case, there HAS to be some sort of provision re: if the teams you are basing your argument on no longer compete in your Conference, you can't prop yourselves up on their successes. Right? They can't even use San Diego State as a crutch, and San Diego State BALOWS. Maybe Craig is masochistic and enjoys taking his beatings in public forums? I'm honestly not sure what he expects to happen. I appreciate his Craig's Last Stand approach to the BCS situation, but he set this whole thing in motion the second he turned down the ESPN contract. Ask the Big East what happens when you turn down the Worldwide in hopes of securing a new, more lucrative contract. Remember, back in our stent with the BEast, when we thought NBC Sports was going to make us a sweetheart deal and that WE would be the aggressors in Conference realignment? Oh how young and foolish we were then...

I think the bottom line here is that we are witnessing the end of the MWC as we know it. Even if they do merge with Conference USA, who is propping you up? Air Force, Tulsa, Wyoming and Southern Mississippi? Not exactly TCU, BYU, Utah and Boise State. I'd have sympathy for them, but then I remember the Boise debacle and how Craig made his bed years ago for this exact situation to play out. Now he gets to sleep in it.

Poinsettia Bowl Preview

Let's see what the guys at the mtn have to say about the Horned Frogs' last football game ever as a member of the MWC:

Morning Dump

SI.com tabs Pachall and McCoy all-Americans GoFrogs.com

TCU Horned Frogs vs Louisiana Tech Bulldogs
ESPN

3-point stance: Favorite early bowl games
ESPN

There's no place like...California
The News Star