Scott D. Pierce: Contrary to commissioner's report, MWC did not improve its TV profile

Published: Friday, Aug. 20 2010 12:00 a.m. MDT

We all get that it's Craig Thompson's job to make the Mountain West Conference look good. He is, after all, the commissioner.

But it's hard to remain credible when you, um, twist the truth as much and as often as Thompson did during his teleconference with reporters on Wednesday evening, which was carried live on The mtn.

And we won't even get into his insistence that the invitations to Fresno State and Nevada had nothing to do with the possibility that BYU is about to exit the MWC.

But his statement that, by adding the Bulldogs and the Wolfpack, "We got better and we helped our TV position" is, quite frankly, ludicrous.

To restate the obvious, TV revenue drives college sports. Utah is headed off to the Pac-12 and lots more money.

But of the remaining 16 teams currently in the WAC and the MWC, only BYU stands a reasonable chance of making more TV money, not less, in the foreseeable future.

There are reports that an independent BYU could receive as much as $2 million from ESPN for each game the cable giant telecasts from LaVell Edwards Stadium. Given that that money wouldn't have to be shared with any conference compatriots, BYU would make more from a single game than its yearly take from the MWC's TV revenue.

That's one game a year, and there might be more. If BYU can monetize its BYU-TV network, it could make a whole lot more than that.

The WAC (if it survives) will take a big hit. The six teams that remain are a motley crew as far as TV goes — only San Jose State resides in a big TV market. (And the Spartans are an afterthought in the No. 6 San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose market).

Other than, it's USU (No. 31, shared with Utah and BYU); Hawaii (No. 71); Idaho (No. 75, shared with Washington State); Louisiana Tech (No. 82); and New Mexico State (No. 98, shared with UTEP).

No matter what additions the WAC makes, it's going to take a big hit for losing Boise State. And, to a lesser extent, Fresno and Nevada.

Without BYU and Utah, the MWC is going to take a hit as well. Boise resides in the No. 112 market; Fresno is No. 55, and Nevada is No. 108.

The rest of the league looks like this — TCU is an afterthought in No. 5; Colorado State is an afterthought in No. 16; San Diego State is an afterthought in No. 28; UNLV is No. 42; New Mexico is No. 44; Air Force is No. 92, and Wyoming is No. 197.

You've got to give Thompson credit for being able to say with a straight face that the two latest additions strengthen the league. Like anyone is going to pay more for the rights to, say, Nevada vs. Wyoming.

Like it or not, there are only two teams in the current MWC with genuine national followings — Air Force and BYU. In terms of TV, Nevada, Fresno and even Boise State are not BYU.

It's ridiculous to argue that a MWC without Utah and BYU won't be less valuable to television. And, with at least 10 teams, they'll be splitting a smaller pot more ways.

Not even revenue from a football championship game (if the MWC expands to 12 or more) could make up for that.

Frankly, I applaud Thompson for having the smarts to keep the MWC viable while the WAC faces an uncertain future.

But to suggest that the league faces a bright TV future is just laughable.

e-mail: pierce@desnews.com

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