The Big XII will likely tap TCU and, I'm thinking, SMU (a program on the rise) to replace Colorado and Nebraska. That would bring the conference number of teams back down to eight, which will suffice for the time being.
However, the prospect of joining the Mountain West Conference will be sufficiently appealling so as to open up competition among all members of the WAC and even the current I-AA Big Sky Conference.
In terms of risk management, the Mountain West can choose teams for expansion based on large media markets, quality-of-play or both. The quality-of-play level, in order to trump media market considerations, would need to affect BCS fortunes, as in the case of Boise State. The best of both worlds would be a team to favorably affect BCS fortunes that also enjoys a large media market.
Reasonably, better conference affiliation and fit can positively energize a team's performance whereas poor fit can de-energize it. And the media market is a given stable-state whereas team performance can most often be expected to vary postively with greater conference affiliation. Teams from large media markets with reasonable potential for greater quality-of-play would, thus, likely be considered a better risk for added value in conference affiliation.
The best media markets from the pool of expansion prospects thus include:
San Jose State (#6 San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose 2,503,400) -- This is a highly desirable market. Will SJSU emerge as consistent?
Fresno State (#55 Fresno-Visalia 579,180) -- Significant market. Heir-apparent to Utah?
Hawaii (#71 Honolulu 433,240) -- Significant market. Great attendance. Time zone issues and considerations of some jet-lag.
Nevada (#108 Reno 270,500) -- Fairly significant market. High scoring offense but crushed by TCU in latest bowl game.
Idaho, New Mexico State, Utah State, Louisiana Tech -- Markets not of significant size. Improving quality-of-play nonetheless.
Montana (#166 Missoula 111,940) -- Fairly significant market. Good quality-of-play. Traditionally caves against Idaho schools.
UC-Davis, Sacramento State (#20 Sacramento-Stockton-Modesto 1,404,580) -- Very significant market. May likely opt for Big West Conference.
Cal Poly-SLO (#120 Santa Barbara-Santa Maria-San Luis Obispo 241,370) -- Fairly significant market. May likely opt for Big West Conference.
Portland State (#22 Portland 1,188,770) -- Very significant market. Improving quality-of-play. Great new head coach.
There will be room for four more teams in order to establish a 12-team conference. Based on media market size and quality-of-play potential at this point, I would reasonably conclude that the following teams represent the best-risks for close-monitoring of development for eventual conference affiliation and membership into the Mountain West Conference. My bias is in favor of:
San Jose State & Portland State
The MWC as a 12-team conference
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