BYU is a very unique place. No other place can really compare to the unique situation that BYU has. So as a BYU fan, it wasn't a total shocker when I heard the news that BYU was going rogue and likely becoming Independent, and blazing its own trail to gain more national exposure.
For years, BYU has thought of Independence and Cougar faithful have always posed hypothetical's wondering what that could be like for BYU if they ever did in fact pull the trigger and become the Notre Dame of the West. I always felt it would be the death of BYU athletics. Never sounded like a situation where BYU could thrive and getter better in. It's been on the minds of Cougar brass since the formation of the MWC in 1999, and really started to heat up in 2005 when The mtn. deal was struck.
Flash forward to today, as more information continues to come out about the situation my tone is changing and it feels like Independence is the route BYU needs to pursue, going forward.
The nail in the coffin for me for BYU to pursue their declaration of Independence was the teleconference by Commissioner Craig Thompson on Wednesday night. Mr. Thompson is a shady individual who will never provide honesty. This man is not a leader. He's been reactive in his entire tenure as MWC Commissioner. Thompson thinks Fresno State and Nevada provide a bigger and better future for the league? He makes a pity move to halt BYU's plans of Independence. This isn't a league to be a part of. No future with this guy at the helm. Time for BYU more than ever to seek greener pastures, and show the nation it has a lot to offer and is a big-time Football program and Athletic Department.
Fans of the other schools in the MWC are looking at this as another way to bash on BYU and enhance their hatred of everything in Provo. The fact of the matter is, if any of the other institutions in this league had the resources BYU does they would be doing the same thing. If you want to hate on a institution hate on the University of Utah for bailing with no remorse to the league. Just watch the most recent episode of Mountain West Saturday on The mtn. where Kyle Whittingham says he isn't a nostalgic guy and doesn't care about leaving this league. They threw the wrench in all of this, everyone thought we had a good thing going right? More expansion is on the horizon, all of us know it so programs have to position themselves for the best situation possible, and as a BYU fan I'm excited BYU is being pro-active. For far too long BYU has been on the raw end of deals. From no Pac-10 invite in late 80's where many felt BYU deserved an invite to play better competition and test themselves more on a bigger stage, the Big XII choosing Baylor due to political purposes in 1995, and now the recent Pac-10 and Big XII moves this Summer. BYU has had enough and is ready to take care of themselves for once, and I applaud Athletic Director Tom Holmoe and President Cecil O. Samuelson for such.
If BYU does in fact end up going Independent. I think it poses some exciting possibilities. Scheduling is going to be key for BYU. It will be tough to get games, but I feel BYU can still get home-and-homes from teams within WAC and Mountain West Conference. These teams love the gate receipt BYU fans bring with them, and Pac-10 schools are still likely to schedule the Cougs. Arizona had its first sellout in nine seasons when BYU traveled to Tucson back in 2006. BYU had 20,000+ fans at USC in 2003, and UCLA in 2007. BYU fans are dotted along the West Coast, and Western teams will still play the Cougs because again they bring fans. The question is if BYU can get some Big Ten programs and Big XII teams as Bronco Mendenhall has stated he wants to schedule more in the past. Getting programs from those leagues to come to Provo will be more attractive for BYU to strike a deal with ESPN. The recent news of landing the Texas Longhorns in a 2-for-1 is definitely a step in the right direction.
The TV possibilities with BYU-TV are an upgrade for BYU over The mtn. Or at worst BYU-TV network is on par with what The mtn. has to offer for BYU, while it continues to grow. It's not a household name in the TV world obviously; but BYU fans can get it on most any basic cable or satellite package nationwide. Which is something that can't be said for The mtn. And again if BYU can land an ESPN deal this is big. ESPN and BYU have always been good to one another. BYU was part of the first ever live nationally televised College Football broadcast in ESPN's history back in 1984 against Pitt. BYU along with San Diego State revolutionized the Thursday night Primetime broadcast in the early 90s with some of their historic matchups involving Ty Detmer and Marshall Faulk. In 2001, BYU was a ESPN darling appearing on the World Wide Leader's family of networks eight times as they started the season 12-0 that year. Then most recently, BYU was picked to open the new Dallas Cowboys Stadium against #3 Oklahoma in Primetime on opening weekend last season.
With ESPN and BYU-TV, BYU is easily going to clear the $1.5 Million they earn from The mtn. in revenues. It's a no brainer from a financial standpoint, and of course the power BYU gains. BYU-TV will offer fans better access to games nationwide, and worldwide through online services.
BYU Football will be in good hands regardless of where they end up, I truly believe. My biggest concern has to be with the Basketball program. BYU has to think of the best interest of the Men's Hoops program as well along with football. Dave Rose is taking BYU to heights never seen in years in Provo. Don't diminish any possibilities of getting even better, for this program that is on the rise.
The West Coast Conference is a really intriguing possibility for BYU Hoops. BYU & Gonzaga would form one of the better West-coast basketball rivalries around. WCC is on ESPN, granted its similar to the old Big Monday 10 p.m. time slots for the MWC (remember Bob Carpenter and Jimmy Dykes? Good times) but for some odd reason the Gonzaga's and St. Mary's of the world in recent years tend to get more respect than the MWC's fine basketball league, when it comes to seeding in the NCAA Tournament. Direct to tv coverage? Not sure. But the WCC gets respect oddly enough. WCC is no slouch of a hoops league. Biggest problem with WCC is they don't offer opportunities for some of BYU's Olympic teams. Which is a problem.
Then aside from the Athletic side of all this, I truly believe BYU is viewing this move to possible Independence as a way to promote the Church of Latter-Day Saints (LDS or Mormon). BYU athletics are a indirect way of promoting the LDS church, and BYU feels the BYUtv angle can help with that.
There is a lot to mull over, and with tweets flying in from all angles every few minutes, things could change drastically with this whole situation. But I know this BYU fan is ready to declare his Independence. I will miss seeing my team playing for Conference titles, but ultimately does anyone around the land respect a MWC Conference Title? In Men's Basketball no one even acknowledges the Regular Season title. BYU has won 23 conference titles in Football and people could honestly care less. So what's the point of shooting for a conference title that no one respects or even recognizes?
This day and age of college athletics is all about protecting yourself and positioning your program in the best position possible, it's an arms race to get bigger and better. BYU is just utilizing its assets to show people/conferences around the nation that we have some unique qualities to offer. That's all.
At the end of the day, people need to realize it's nothing personal. It's just business.
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