SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Bowl Championship Series released its formula for determining how conferences, such as the Mountain West, can earn an automatic bid to the big-money bowls.
The BCS disclosed Thursday it has three ways to measure conference strength. They are the ranking of the highest-ranked team from a conference in the final BCS standings, the final regular-season computer rankings of all the teams in a conference and the number of teams from a conference in the top 25 in the final BCS standings.
These are compiled over a four-year period, and the conferences are measured against each other.
Six conferences -- the Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, ACC, SEC and Pac-10 -- have automatic bids that are contractually bound through the 2013 season.
Another conference could earn an automatic bid if it hits certain targets in all three categories.
For the first two categories, the goal for leagues such as the MWC and the Western Athletic Conference is to be ranked among the six best conferences in the country.
A points system is used in the third category that takes into account how each team in a conference is ranked at the end of the season. Using those points, each conference is given a grade, and for a conference to earn an automatic bid to the BCS, its grade needs to be about 50 percent.
"By putting out the data, we're hoping we can uncomplicate it," BCS executive director Bill Hancock said.
The BCS is in the middle of a four-year evaluation period. Hancock said the MWC is making a push to earn automatic-bid status for the 2012 and '13 seasons. Automatic bids for the next four-year cycle of the BCS, which will start in 2014, have not been determined
Utah and TCU both earned BCS bids the past two seasons.
"The Mountain West has had two great years," Hancock said. "They have a chance."
The conference rankings for the past two seasons were not released, but the general information is available and no doubt those inclined to crunch numbers will be trying to figure out where each conference stands entering next season.
Hancock stressed that the rankings can change dramatically from year to year because conferences are being judged against each other.
So another big year by the Mountain West in 2010 -- when TCU, BYU and Utah are again expected to have strong teams -- is far from guaranteed.
While the conference rankings the BCS uses to determine how another league can earn an automatic bid have been spelled out for years, BCS officials have been criticized by not giving details of how the formula is put together and what exactly needs to be done to qualify.
Hancock said the BCS released the formula to try to become more transparent.
The BCS also released its revenue distribution for the past bowl season, which was obtained by the AP in January.
The five non-automatic qualifying conferences -- the MWC, WAC, Sun Belt, Mid-American and Conference USA -- split a record $24,723,000. TCU and Boise State received BCS bids last season, marking the first time two teams from leagues outside the big six played in the marquee bowl games since the BCS was implemented in 1998.