East Carolina University Chancellor Steve Ballard recently spoke with Pirate Radio 1250 about the proposed Conference USA- MWC Merger that has been floated around the press the last few weeks (UCFSports.com has published a transcript). Ballard was asked about a proposed merger or merged title game and his quotes definitely make it seem like the discussions have progressed past the point of a "think tank" session.
Ballard told Pirate Radio:
"So we worked very hard and we want to be ready if anything happens. The most encouraging thing to me is this: I think Conference USA, through a lot of hard work, has positioned itself to get into the probability of an automatic qualifier status working with the Mountain West. There's a lot of work left to do to get that actually in writing, but both the Mountain West and Conference USA seem really anxious to make that happen. So I am very optimistic." (emphasis added)
Ballard believes that a proposed merger would most likely consist of two separate conferences that had some sort of play-in for an automatic bid to a BCS bowl.
"More of the latter probably, but with the possibility of mergers down the road. A championship game where the champion of each conference would play and the winner of that game would be a automatic qualifier."
Remember that just last week, UTEP athletic director Bob Stull was asked about a proposed merger and responded:
"That would be really attractive," UTEP athletic director Bob Stull said. "Probably more attractive than a conference championship game."
With BYU still in limbo and the MWC possible resorting to adding Utah State, it seems clear, to me, that the MWC might be best served to use this proposed plan as their best avenue towards an AQ spot, even a shared one. The question is, will Commissioners Banowsky and Thompson take this to the next level? BYU would probably need to recommit to the MWC for this to be a possibility.