One option being considered Sunday by two conferences' CEOs is to "dissolve" Conference USA and the Mountain West before forming a new league, CBSSports.com learned.
The move could have ramifications on current TV deals and put the new "Big Country" -- let's call it -- in line ahead of the Big East for a new TV rights deal. Dissolving both leagues could conceivably alter current TV deals in place with the MWC and CUSA and make the Big Country a new entity to be bid on by TV rightsholders.
The Big East is attempting to survive by realigning prior to the end of its current TV deal in 2013-14. The Big East and Big Ten (after 2014-15) are next in line to cash in with rightsholders. In figures obtained by CBSSports.com, a 12-team Big East configured for debut in 2013, would be significantly ahead of a merged CUSA/MWC in terms of average BCS computer ranking.
A year ago, Conference USA signed a $43 mlllion deal with Fox to broadcast a mininmum of 20 football games per year including the league's title game through the 2015 season. At the time ESPN protested saying it believed it had the right of first refusal on such a deal with Conference USA.
CBSSports.com reported Thursday that the two leagues' presidents would meet Sunday in Dallas to discuss forming a new league. Beginning in 2013 the "Big Country" would have 17 teams. There has been discussion whether to stay at that number or possibly add a team or teams. The new league could be football only, all sports or some other consolidation.
With the assumed end of automatic qualifying conferences in the BCS, the rush is on to simply become as attractive as possible to TV rightsholders. One of the advantages of a combined MWC/CUSA league is strength in numbers. Seventeen (or more) schools would fortify the new league against departures if it was raided in the future.
A 17-team league (at least) would be the largest conference in FBS (formally Division I-A). That would mean a lot of inventory for a rightholder(s) with teams in 14 states extending over five time zones.
According to a source, the five current non-automatic qualifying conferences distribute BCS money based on a performance-based ranking system. Half of the money received from the BCS is split evenly among the five. The other half is split based on the ranking. For the first time in six years, the Mountain West was not the leader of those five (MWC, CUSA, MAC, Sun Belt, WAC). CUSA was No. 1 in 2011.
Previously, the Mountain West had applied for a waiver to the BCS presidents that would allow it to temporarily become a BCS conference in 2012 and 2013. MWC commissioner Craig Thompson told CBSSports.com last week, "I'm not overly optimistic."
According to the figures mentioned above, the average computer ranking for the projected 17 "Big Country" schools in 2011 was 86.18. That ranges from a high of 21.83 for Southern Miss and a low of 117.33 for New Mexico. The Big East average of 53.8 ranges from a high of 10.67 for Boise State to 89.5 for Central Florida.
The figures are based on this 12-team Big East projection:
San Diego State