Craig Thompson is kind of an easy target for lazy, pot-shot-loving bloggers like me. As Mountain West commissioner, he’s given us lots of ammunition; from the sad TV deal to the evisceration of the conference via expansion (and back-filling with San Jose State) to the fact that two Mountain West teams faced each other in a bowl game streamed online last year.
All that said, he probably gets a bad rap overall. Thompson can only play the hand he’s been dealt and, for the last several years of his tenure, that hand has included two Garbage Pail Kids and a Starbucks gift card with $1.75 left on it.
However there is something brewing that, if it comes to pass, we should all rightfully roast him for.
The MWC faces a crisis, a pending public embarrassment beyond anything the league has endured since the last public embarrassment. Or maybe even the one before that one. It’s that big! And it’s something Thompson needs to address over the next four days like his job depends on it. I mean, it doesn’t because he somehow has better job security than a Supreme Court justice, but still.
Now, please don’t take this as the sniveling of a bitter Aztecs fanboy. It isn’t about us; it’s about the conference. Here’s a visual summary of the various bowl projections for Mountain West teams:
If most of these national pundit projections (half-educated guesses) are to be believed, the winner of Saturday’s Mountain West Championship Game (who, seemingly out of habit, most assume will be San Diego State) will play a losing team in the Las Vegas Bowl. One scenario has the champion facing 5-7 Mississippi State. Another has the opponent as 5-7 NORTH TEXAS! Appalachian State is another possibility for Vegas. As a nine-win conference champion they would be an acceptable, if entirely unglamorous, opponent.
But the scenario where our conference champion plays a losing team? That is nothing short of a nightmare. Think about the message that sends about what we, as a conference, deserve. Think about the message if our champion plays a 5-7 team in a bowl and LOSES THAT GAME. I think we all understand such a scenario is not out of the realm of possibility.
Even more frustrating, there’s actually a scenario involving currently-in-play bowls that makes a ton of sense and would avoid this doomsday for our champion and reputation. Here goes:
- Conference champion plays Baylor in the Cactus
- Boise State to the Vegas to play whomever
- Conference runner-up plays BYU in the Poinsettia
In this scenario, the champion gets the honor of playing a winning (totally evil and disgusting) Power Five school in a decent location. Boise gets to go to Vegas, where their legion of fans can get shitfaced at Sam’s Town and their team will romp. The conference runner-up gets the Poinsettia, which is something Wyoming would probably like and we would have no legitimate right to bitch about.
So what’s a conference commissioner to do? I don’t claim to understand what goes on behind closed doors with conference commissioners and bowl reps, though I assume it’s much like the underground sex cult scenes in Eyes Wide Shut. All I’m saying is Thompson needs to do whatever it takes – finagle, horse trade, bargain, threaten – to avoid putting the respectability of his entire league through the ringer again.
If he can do it, I will gladly offer my kudos.
If he can’t do it – if he can’t even muster the moderate amount of influence this would likely take – one is left to wonder why we have a conference commissioner at all. An administrative assistant, an accountant and a couple of spreadsheets would probably be all that would be needed to maintain the status quo.
Hell, just divvy that commissioner salary up among the member institutions. It would pay nearly as much as the damn TV deal.
UPDATE (12/4): That’ll do, Craig. That’ll do.