During the 2010 summer of conference realignment BYU's name was only mentioned in a fake tweet regarding them to the Big XII along side Air Force. However, as for actual news BYU was not mentioned in any potential move to the Big XII or the Pac-10. Earlier this month BYU Athletic Director Tom Holmoe talked with the media about a myriad of topics that ranged from the rivalry with Utah to the new media center that can broadcast online, worldwide, and in high definition. He also mentioned that BYU had something big for the school, so is it more then the media center or is it something like this where they go to the WAC in all sports with football going off by their selves.
Now this rumor (and I heavily emphasis rumor) comes from some insightful people who have covered BYU for the Salt Lake Tribune and now work in local Salt Lake radio. Here is the audio from 1320 KFAN. The BYU independent starts just under 15 minutes in, so fast forward to the good stuff.
On the surface this makes no sense, and my initial tweet about this rumor brought a lot of reaction just go here, here, and here for a sample. However, after thinking about the move it actually can make some sense in the eyes of BYU. For one if this rumor has any legs there will be an announcement this week because the WAC has a deadline of September first for a new member to join for the following season. BYU could theoretically could join the WAC in all sports for 2011 and then be an independent for 2011 in football.
First off I think unless this has been in the works for a while I do not see it happening in 2011, but 2012 or later could make sense. BYU AD Tom Holmoe has been talking about BYU keeping options open and always trying to make their situation better and this might be it. A few reasons why this is a bad idea is that the Mountain West is dangerously close to becoming a BCS league and why would BYU leave the chance to be in a league that gets that extra money from being a BCS league.
The money is a boost being about $20 million for the BCS bowl game and a few million from the other bowls. So, a conservative estimate is $22 million for all the bowls, and that comes out to $2.44 million per team which is huge for this league. When you include the television money the annual total comes out to be about $4 to $5 million. The only way BYU leaves this year would be because they are going to be assured of getting at least that much money from a television deal.
Getting anything close to that by getting off of the current Mountain West deal that includes little known stations as Versus, CBS College, and the Mtn will be worth that. The reason BYU could get away by being an independent is because of that on campus media center that can broadcast anything in HD for BYU-TV. That channel is also available on the basic packages for Dish Network, DirecTv, most basic cable packages, it is available internationally, and online. Take a look at their coverage map, and it is just slightly better then their current deal.
To go independent in football BYU better have something going on with ESPN and then possibly Fox Sports while BYU-TV could show home games that are not picked up by ESPN or Fox Sports for football. The problem about this in the short term is scheduling for football because getting eight teams on the schedule in about a year's time is very tough. Now trying to get Utah on the schedule for 2011 is a little easier with BYU having more open dates, but the location is still an issue.
Now, BYU could probably get most of the teams to stay on the schedule due to those teams would also be scrambling to find an opponent, but I would think some teams would screw BYU and drop them. One huge thing to consider is would WAC commissioner want BYU back sans football. It is a fair question since BYU was once part of the WAC and left with seven other teams over a decade ago in a secret meeting at some airport to make the Mountain West Conference.
I would think Benson would have to say yes because by having BYU in the league even without football is a major boost for the WAC's profile. Basketball would be much better with another solid team to go along side Utah State, Nevada, and the occasional good Fresno State team.
Benson should try to milk this for all its worth and tell BYU that they can join without football but make them have to schedule two or three WAC teams every year, or something along those lines. That helps both teams because there would be one less game for BYU to schedule.
The other logistics would be getting bowl arrangements and would they be better then the current Mountain West deal. They probably could get something like Navy or Notre Dame where they are an alternate choice between a league or themselves. Perhaps the Insight.com bowl (is that the name), Texas Bowl, Las Vegas bowl would be interested, as would maybe the Holiday or Poinsettia Bowl. BYU probably could try to align with the Big XII since they lost two teams and be an alternate option there.
As for the BCS there is no way BYU is any better off then they are now, because they are not going to get a sweetheart deal like Notre Dame has. BYU would still have to qualify under the current criteria for the non-BCS schools. The upside is that if the make a bowl they keep all the money with the only exception being for a BCS bowl where they would get a share equal to a second team qualifying from a conference which last year was $4.5 million, but that is still huge money.
Another question to ask is would the fans like it?
BYU prides themselves on conference titles and they would lose that chance in football. The first five years or even a decade would seem cool by being able to schedule better teams then most of their current Mountain West conference mates. How realistic could BYU get even mid level teams to do home and homes on a consistent basis. They did get Florida State, Washington, and Boston College in recent years, and Notre Dame did a two for one a while back. The schedule would presumable be an upgrade and just getting new teams into LaVell Edwards would make the fans happy.
One last thought to consider is why not just join the WAC full time and be what Boise State was for so long? The exposure would be increased but it would be seen by outsiders (and even locally) that BYU was ducking competition to get to a lesser league to just become a BCS league.
In theory the idea of being an independent in football and a member of the WAC is a solid idea, because the Mountain West would not allow it and going independent in all sports is a logistical nightmare. My opinion is that BYU should wait to see if their league become a BCS league, because the money would be improved, and odds are that their television deal could be reworked since they are a BCS league.
Also, do not forget that over the air CBS is broadcasting a Mountain West regular season basketball game, and who knows if that would carry over to football. Plus, with the mega deal between Comcast and NBC Universal who knows what type of deal or where these games could be on. It is a real possibility that the Mountain West could have games on CBS and/or NBC with that merger. It is a long shot, but they got hoops on CBS so who knows.
BYU should just be patient in this and not rush things so soon, because the future could be much brighter for BYU staying in the Mountain West by possibly becoming a BCS league and the television stuff I just mentioned. I did not even get into the possibility of going to the Big XII when they will eventually go back to twelve teams.