HENDERSON, Nev. — Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson's annual "State of the Conference" comments revolved around the league's fight for automatic inclusion in the Bowl Championship Series.
Thompson vows the battle will continue. The crux, he explained, is to keep winning football games. A performance-based system is what the conference is seeking.
And in that regard, Thompson said the MWC is deserving of automatic qualification.
Problem is, he needs to persuade nine other conferences, four bowls (Fiesta, Orange, Rose and Sugar) and a television network (ESPN, beginning in 2010) to agree.
"We need to get everyone involved or there won't be change," Thompson said Wednesday morning at the MWC football meetings at the Green Valley Ranch resort.
Thompson explained that the league recently signed the new four-year, ESPN pact with the BCS to prevent student-athletes from missing out on that opportunity while the debate for automatic inclusion continues.
The league will continue to push for change, noting that the window to do so must be complete before the next BCS contract is negotiated. In the meantime, the task is clear — keep winning games.
That, he added, makes it easier to "stick up for ourselves" and keep "fighting for our guys."
Thompson, who is entering his 11th year at the helm and signed a contract extension through 2012, insists the quest isn't about "smoke and mirrors" or "statistics." The MWC truly believes its teams are performing at a level worthy of an automatic bid.
The commissioner addressed other topics as well. He said the conference plans to have five bowl agreements in place every year. Negotiations are currently under way on new deals with current bowl partners Maaco (Las Vegas), San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia (San Diego), Armed Forces (Fort Worth), New Mexico (Albuquerque) and Roady's Humanitarian (Boise). All five of the contracts expire after this year.
"We're very excited about our bowl lineup," said Thompson, who noted that the MWC is also drawing interest from games in Washington, D.C., and Houston.
"We will have five bowls," he said.
As for expansion, Thompson acknowledged it's been discussed but that no specific institutions have been pinpointed. Scheduling is a concern and the league is still uncertain if expansion would help the BCS cause.
The league's 10-year existence is another subject Thompson addressed. He pointed out that the conference was the first in the nation to have its own television network and boasted about the league having No. 1 draft picks in three professional sports — Alex Smith (NFL), Andrew Bogut (NBA) and Stephen Strasburg (MLB) — showcasing the ability and character of athletes in the MWC.
In another matter, Thompson noted that approximately 50 percent of the conference's televised football games will be broadcast in HD this fall.