Wednesday, July 15, 2009 | 2 a.m.
Money talks, and whatever argument Sen. Orrin Hatch and his constituents from the University of Utah made in front of a U.S. Senate subcommittee, on behalf of the Mountain West and college football’s other have-not conferences for automatic inclusion into the Bowl Championship Series, walks.
The Mountain West’s new theme song should be Edwin Starr’s “Twenty Five Miles From Home.” The conference is at least that far from rightly gaining an automatic bid into the bowl championship cartel after becoming the last holdout to ratify a new four-year agreement between the BCS and ESPN that goes into effect in 2010.
So keep on walkin’. Huh!
I wanted so badly for the Mountain West to tell the BCS to take its Tostitos Fiesta Bowl and shove it where the Sun Bowl doesn’t shine.
By taking a stand against the power conferences and the Big East, it would have earned the respect of college football fans, the majority of whom are clamoring loudly for some sort of all-inclusive December Madness playoff system.
Louder than the Mountain West, which was proposing an eight-team playoff. Apparently its plan was about as well thought out as Heckle and Jeckle’s to rob a bank, or at least that’s what one of the other senators inferred. Your plan doesn’t go far enough, the Mountain West was told. It still includes automatic berths. And Brent Musburger.
So when push came to shove, the MWC’s talking magpies signed on the bottom line.
They caved like a bunch of spelunkers at Carlsbad Caverns.
They folded like a guy holding pocket deuces.
Just as you knew they would.
Just as I hoped they would not.
Not signing the agreement would have been very costly for the MWC schools. Even in the years Utah loses a few games, Mountain West members receive up to $300,000 in hush money from the BCS. When Utah goes undefeated and crashes the BCS, the other Mountain West teams get a check for about $900,000.
In this economy, five zeros are nothing to sneeze at. With five zeros, UNLV might even be able to afford a scoreboard at the Thomas & Mack Center on which the numbers line up.
You can understand what Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson was up against. Even had he wanted to go maverick, it would have taken the MWC presidents who sign his paycheck about eight seconds to wish him well in his new gig with the Patriot League.
But as far as giving up money for nothing to make a statement, I would only add that it cost Muhammad Ali the most prestigious title in sports as well as his freedom to back up his statement that he didn’t have a quarrel with the Viet Cong.
Ali didn’t sign the contract. Instead, he went to jail. A lot of people respected him for that.
My first reaction when I learned the Mountain West had signed the contract was that I’m glad the colonists who founded this country showed a little more backbone, or we’d all be watching soccer and sipping tea this weekend.
The Mountain West says it will continue its fight for truth, justice and the American way — and an automatic berth into the FedEx Orange Bowl. But by signing the contract, its rightful argument will go away as quickly as Utah marched down the field against Alabama.
Keep on walkin’.