OFFICIAL: Reaction To BYU Going Independent In Football With All Other Sports To Join The WAC

BYU is officially going to crawl back to the WAC in all sports and then flex their muscles by attempting to go independent in football. This is all according to BYU beat writer Jay Drew of the Salt Lake Tribune:

BYU's move to leave the MWC, become a football independent and rejoin the WAC - which it belonged to for nearly four decades before departing with Utah and six other schools to joint the Mountain West - has been in the works for the past month, according to the source.

The main reason BYU is leaving is because of their dissatisfied with the television deal which includes games on The Mtn, CBS College Sports, and Versus.  In theory the deal was a good one, but distribution never took off, and only the state of Utah had easier access to gain all three channels.

Now, BYU will be a part of the WAC in all sports which has deals with ESPN and that will be basically for basketball. This helps out the WAC in basketball quite a bit and there will be an instant rival with Utah State playing BYU twice a year and in the Spectrum which BYU has tried to duck the pass few years.

As for the schedule according to an ESPN article BYU would play at least a third of their schedule against WAC teams:

BYU would play four to six WAC programs in football every season, according to sources. The Cougars already play in-state rival and WAC member Utah State every season.

I know WAC commissioner Karl Benson is not an idiot which is why a stipulation would be put in place to play BYU against some WAC teams.  BYU gets the edge by getting games most likely on ESPN and it helps them not have to schedule eleven games in football with Utah currently being the only given.  

That would leave BYU anywhere from five to seven games at their leisure, but there could be a slight problem trying to get home and home with some good teams.  I know BYU recently has home and homes with USC, UCLA, Arizona, Washington, Florida State, and Boston College.  There was the two for one with Notre Dame, but I bet they could do a home and home with Navy which would be cool, and sometimes Navy.

The same ESPN article mentions that the Mountain West has reached out to Nevada, Fresno State, Houston, and UTEP to join the Mountain West.   However, do not expect any WAC team to make a move any time soon since once Boise State left the rest of the league signed a deal that had a $5 million penalty for leaving within the next five years. Nevada and Fresno State have all ready rejected the Mountain West advances.

Back to the BYU point of view on this.  First off they must have a deal with ESPN that would get them more money or at least very close to what they are getting now which is around $1.5 million a year.  BYU gets to keep all of their bowl money and does not have to share with any other team.  Getting bowl partnerships are now what is next and look for a scenario like what Notre Dame has with the Big East where they are a choice between the school and the conference affiliated team.

The Las Vegas Bowl would definitely want to get in with BYU since they have made a second home there the past few years, but would the Mountain West schools want to help BYU out in anyway to make their life easier.  My first inclination is that BYU could get in line with some of the Big XII bowl games since they lost two teams and will need to keep their contracts.  

As for the BCS bowls unless their is a special inclusion BYU is not guaranteed anything in getting into a BCS bowl game.  Here are is the important rule that would affect BYU the most:

3. The champion of Conference USA, the Mid-American Conference, the Mountain West Conference, the Sun Belt Conference, or the Western Athletic Conference will earn an automatic berth in a BCS bowl game if either:

A. Such team is ranked in the top 12 of the final BCS Standings, or,
B. Such team is ranked in the top 16 of the final BCS Standings and its ranking in the final BCS Standings is higher than that of a champion of a conference that has an annual automatic berth in one of the BCS bowls

Unless the BCS will make rule changes for the current cycle (something I doubt) BYU will have to be so much better then the second team from any BCS league which not only includes being higher ranked, but also bringing in the fans which is what bowls really care about.

Now if BYU is to make a BCS bowl game they would be reaping in $6 million for being an at-large team, so there is incentive with that to go independent.

When the first rumor broke about this my initial thought is that this is a knee-jerk reaction to try to keep up with what Utah has done to avoid being left behind.  I think BYU is jumping the gun on making this move so quickly.  I am sure being independent could wait a few years to see the Mountain West landscape, and there is no way that the WAC could put their foot down and tell BYU now is the time.  I think BYU was just moving too quick without thinking of the long term goals.

There are some big reasons for BYU to have waited until December of 2011 to make this decision.  The first is that the Mountain West is very, very close to becoming a BCS league and with that comes the $20 million or so to be shared with the nine members in the league, recruiting would get a boost for being a BCS league, and the current television deal should get a bump in what they pay.  The biggest and most important reason to stay for a few years is the merger between Comcast and NBC Universal.  Comcast has a stake in the Mtn, CBS College, and Versus.  

Once that deal is finalized who knows if the Mountain West would get games on NBC or CBS, and the CBS portion is all ready under way with the San Diego State vs. BYU basketball game being on over the air CBS.  Even with that potential, BYU must be tired of waiting for the Mtn to be available on a more nation wide basis, and tired of waiting for a BCS berth that may or may not come to the Mountain West.

The money issue is not a problem, because BYU-TV which is in 80 million households and that media center on campus can do any and all sports in high definition.  That will be their secondary television market behind whatever ESPN network that they will be on.   There will still be a problem of people trying to find BYU-TV and Yahoo's  Dan Wetzel brings a good point about BYU-TV:

Then games from South Bend are shown on NBC. That's worth it for USC and Texas and Miami and Michigan and just about anyone else Notre Dame decides to call. BYU-TV may have a promising future, but it isn't a major over-the-air network.

BYU would struggle to get major opponents to play on an in-house religious network - market penetration among South American missionaries doesn't do much for rival coaches seeking football recruits.As a result BYU-TV might wind up like the Big Ten Network, getting the leftover games - in this case the half dozen lesser opponents BYU would be forced to schedule.

In that case, how many new viewers is the football team really delivering to the LDS Church? And wouldn't the chance to stay the course and push for a highly publicized BCS bowl games be more beneficial?

 

My thoughts are with Wetzel about BYU-TV which is a lower tier religious network.  He brings up some good points about trying to draw in teams for a game on BYU-TV, but the ESPN deal should be in place if BYU is able to get good teams to come to Provo.

If this is all about money I think BYU is good to go and made the right move, but what do their fans have to root for?  A BCS bowl is very difficult as an independent and there is no conference championship to aspire to so when BYU is 2-2 in September which normally is the non-conference season.  After that there is no BCS bowl game to look forward to or any conference title to aspire to.  BYU puts pride on the fact that they have so many conference titles, especially under the LaVell Edward years where they dominated the 70's and 80's.

Plus, with maybe half of their schedule against WAC teams how much better will their schedule be.  Playing Utah State, Nevada, Hawai'i, Fresno State, New Mexico State, Utah, and that is not a great schedule.  They other games might be against some Pac-10 or Big XII teams and possibly an FCS team to get to twelve games.

The initial excitement of bringing in new teams will be a good thing for BYU fans, but again when half your schedule is against teams maybe equal and even less then their current Mountain West schedule will grow old after awhile. Unless BYU can get some good teams on the schedule will going independent in football be worth it.

Then there is this about Bronco Mendenhall not knowing what is going on with theindependent talk:

"I am not in the loop regarding anything. ....So if there is anybody, my guess is -- and again, if there is -- it is [athletic director] Tom Holmoe or [Associate AD for Communications] Duff Tittle," Mendenhall said. "That would be where I would go. I have no idea what you are talking about."

One note I forgot to include is that Boise State can return to the WAC without penalty if they choose to.  It would be the same football league, so I still think they are better off competition wise staying in the Mountain West.

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