April 21, 2009

PASADENA, Calif. (AP) -Mountain West Conference commissioner Craig Thompson made his league's case for sweeping changes to the Bowl Championship Series, including a move to an eight-team playoff, in a 90-minute presentation to other conference leaders Tuesday at the BCS meetings.

Also, the BCS coordinator John Swofford dismissed the looming antitrust lawsuit from the Utah Attorney General as having "no impact" on how the MWC's proposal will be considered.

"I'm not sure it does affect the process," Swofford said.

The MWC's proposal comes after a season in which Utah, an Mountain West champion, was the only undefeated team in major college football, but did not get a chance to play for the national title.

"We want it performance-based," Thompson said of the BCS.

The 11 major college football conference commissioners will take the MWC proposal to their end-of-year league meetings and return June 15-19 in Colorado Springs, Colo., with their responses.

It's unlikely that the MWC's proposal will bring about any major changes to the BCS format.

Swofford downplayed the antitrust threat.

"The antitrust aspects were addressed before the BCS went into affect," he said, and nothing has changed in the 12 years since then.

Asked if the BCS commissioners felt there was any significant legal issue, Swofford said, "No, we don't."

Utah attorney general Mark Shurtleff isn't the only elected official who has taken aim at the BCS in recent months.

President Barack Obama has publicly endorsed a playoff system and Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch asked for the BCS to be put on the agenda of the Senate Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights.

Shurtleff, who is in the process of getting facts and assembling legal arguments, has said he plans to proceed with the lawsuit in June.

Thompson didn't see the lawsuit going anywhere, saying "I would agree with John's comments," that there's no antitrust issue for the BCS.

What is at issue, he said, and addressed in his conference's proposal would be a change in the system boosted by the decisive Sugar Bowl win in January by underdog Utah over Alabama, a Southeastern Conference team ranked No. 1 for much of the season.

The MWC's proposed changes are significant, starting with the criteria for selecting eight teams for a playoff by a 12-person committee that would discard the polls and computers used to determine the BCS standings.

"It's totally different," Thompson said, from the current process with its six automatic qualifiers from the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Big East, Pac-10 and Southeastern conferences that has "some fundamental flaws."

"Who you beat on the field," should be all that matters, Thompson said, citing one "disturbing comment" of a poll voter who admitted after the season that "I never saw Utah play."

Swofford said the BCS, which rejected a "plus-one" format a year ago, said the MWC format would be taken into consideration, despite the BCS' new $500 million contract with ESPN that goes into effect in 2010.

"I don't think it would be appropriate to dismiss it out of hand," Swofford said.

That was good enough for Thompson, who said he could see the five-part proposal considered in whole - or in part.

"It's an uphill challenge," Thompson said.