MWC not happy with Colorado State, Nevada playing in same bowl
Mountain West Conference officials sent emails, texts and made calls to almost everyone they could think of to prevent Colorado State and Nevada from playing in the same bowl together.
They reached out to other bowl games, conferences, the NCAA, the Football Bowl Association and ESPN. They spoke to the athletic directors within the Mountain West, both individually and on conference calls, and to the MWC board of directors.
They suggested swaps, financial arrangements and other creative alternatives.
Despite all the effort, the Dec. 29 Arizona Bowl in Tucson will pit the Rams against the Wolf Pack — and the conference is not happy about it at all.
"It is a travesty the Mountain West has been forced into this situation," Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson said. "Clearly, the system is broken."
The system became bogged down with the glut of bowl games this season.
Starting with the Dec. 19 Celebration Bowl, there will be a record 40 bowl games. That means more than 60 percent of the teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision will be playing in bowl games.
With so many slots available, not every team was able to reach the required six wins to get in, so the NCAA approved a plan to fill the bowls with five-win teams based on their Academic Progress Ratings for 2013-14, the most recent scores available. Nebraska, Minnesota and San Jose were awarded the slots.
When the decision was made, Mountain West officials argued that 6-6 teams should get priority and be placed according to agreements with conferences and bowl games ahead of 5-7 teams. Once the 6-6 teams were placed, the 5-7 teams would fill the games that still needed participants, under the conference's proposal.
The Mountain West voted against the proposal that eventually passed.
And the way the slotting played out, Colorado State and Nevada both ended up in the Arizona Bowl, marking the first time two teams from the same conference will play in a bowl against each other since Nebraska and Oklahoma in the 1979 Orange Bowl. SEC teams Alabama and LSU played in the 2011 postseason, but that was in the BCS championship game.
"The Mountain West explored every possibility for placing the teams in question," Thompson said. "Unfortunately, no one was willing to adjust and those efforts were to no avail. Following the outcome of (Saturday) night's games, it became clear there were 80 teams for 80 bowl slots and the only two openings still available for a pair of MW teams would match them in the same game."
Colorado State got its first season under coach Mike Bobo off to a rough start, losing three of its first five games. The Rams rallied to win their final four games to finish 7-5, earning a bowl trip for the second straight season.
Nevada clinched its second bowl appearance under coach Brian Polian with an overtime victory over San Jose State before losing its final two games.
Both teams finished second in their respective divisions, Nevada in the West, Colorado State in the Mountain.
The Rams and Wolf Pack have met 13 times, with Colorado State holding an 11-2 advantage. The teams have met twice since Nevada joined the Mountain West, both wins by Colorado State. They did not play each other this season.
Because of the infrequency of their matchups and the added time spent with their teams, neither coach seemed as concerned about playing a conference opponent in a bowl game as Mountain West officials were.
"Our guys are excited about it," Bobo said. "I haven't played Nevada, so I'm excited about it."
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