Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Brigham Young University ($BYU$) Sells Out, Goes Independent In Football, To The West Coast Conference For Other Sports

What I hoped wouldn't happen has happened on August 31st, 2010. Brigham Young University (BYU) has sold out and is going independent in college football effective the 2011-12 season. To add insult to injury, they're stepping down to the West Coast Conference (WCC) instead of the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) for other sports also effective the 2011-12 season. BYU will further explain the move in a September 1st press conference. Media stories from the Deseret News, the Salt Lake Tribune, the Provo Daily Herald, and KSL Channel 5. KSL news video embedded below:

Video Courtesy of KSL.com

BYU Coach Bronco Mendenhall weighed in extensively on the decision. In basic terms, he approves of it. "I support our administration's decision. I think there will be a chance for tremendous exposure for our program and more details will come [Wednesday], I am certain. As far as I am concerned, I am supportive of it and anxious to coach the team in a new situation", said Mendenhall

MWC commissioner Craig Thompson issued the following statement, in which they tellingly omitted mentioning BYU by name:

“Since its inception the Mountain West Conference has worked strategically to grow and strengthen the league, in order to position itself at the highest level of intercollegiate athletics.

“Our board of directors’ diligent exploration of options to advance the membership’s objectives is ongoing. This includes conversations with our television partners to address issues of mutual importance, as well as determining the optimal configuration for the conference and investigating the possibility of various collaborative alliances.

Reaction from the West Coast Conference is documented on BYU Newsnet. Colorado State Athletic Director Paul Kowalczyk, whose school is part of the MWC, said, ""It's unfortunate. I hate to see BYU go, on one hand. But, on the other hand, the Mountain West is a strong conference with the recent additions of Nevada, Fresno State and Boise State. It puts us in a position as a conference to get better and have a BCS shot."

According to ESPN, BYU made the move to establish itself as an independent power in the West, hoping to control its football television rights and keep the money for itself. BYU already has its own TV network, BYUtv, but all of its football games were a part of the Mountain West television contract. That was a huge sticking point when it came down to deciding whether to go independent or stay with the Mountain West.

Analysis: With the previous departure of the University of Utah for the Pacific-12 Conference, this effectively cuts the heart out of the Mountain West Conference (MWC). It seriously dilutes the value and appeal of the annual "Holy War", the game between Utah and BYU. The accession of Nevada and Fresno State to the MWC hardly begins to compensate for this move. What must Boise State think about this? When they decided to leave the WAC and move to the MWC, Boise State never dreamed that two of the best MWC teams, Utah and BYU, would be gone within a year. Boise State must feel like they bought a pig in a poke; the Idaho Statesman provides more insight on Idaho thinking HERE.

Can you imagine how competitive a conference including Utah, BYU, Boise State, and TCU would have been? At least four possible Top 25 teams in football. And Air Force and Wyoming aren't exactly slouches, either. Now that's not going to happen, because two of them got greedy and bolted for greener pastures.

Some have said that BYU wants to become the Mormon version of Notre Dame. But there's a slight hitch -- there are an estimated 10 times more Catholics than Mormons in the United States. So that may not necessarily prove viable. Furthermore, will Mormons outside the United States really care about how BYU's teams are doing? Many of them have local rooting interests, particularly in Europe and Latin America, where soccer is the national sport.

Bad move, BYU; you've just lost a fan. And based on some of the comments appended to the media stories, I'm not the only one.

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