Yesterday word spread wild through the internet that Mountain West Conference member BYU is planning on going independent in football and joining the WAC for all other sports. It started with this tweet by Colorado State’s football Twitter account saying “BYU to go independent in football in 2011. Cougars will join the WAC for all other sports. Press conference scheduled for Thursday.”
Perhaps this news should not be so surprising. The Salt Lake Tribune’s Jay Drew reminds his readers that last month BYU Athletic Director Tom Holmoe may have tipped his cap about a move to independence in football when boasting about an upgraded broadcast facility on the BYU campus. In a July 16 meeting Holmoe said “There are a lot of possibilities. When we started to put the plans together for [the TV station]….It is all HD. So now, every game we do on BYU TV is HD. That’s pretty tremendous.”
Holmoe also alluded to the idea of independence being on the tables at BYU.
“Independence is an option that obviously has been out there. We will look at everything. We have looked at everything. There are pros and cons to the Pac-10, the Big Ten, the Big 12, the Mountain West Conference and independence. With all these things there are pros and cons. So what you have to do is you have to weigh those and measure them against what? What is right for BYU. And not for what is right for BYU in the year 2010, but what is right for BYU into the future. That is quite a bit more complex than most people understand. You have got a constituency to deal with. You have got a school to deal with.”
Being able to offer a high quality television broadcast for football and other sporting events may have been part of a plan to secure BYU’s own television revenue separate of what they are currently making through the Mountain West. A press release by Ad Systems announcing they have signed BYU Athletics Cable Television may be the first real step toward the move toward independence for the Cougars. With a television revenue plan lined up BYU can seriously consider life without the Mountain West’s revenue sharing.
If television money speaks, and it clearly does, then the Mountain West Conference may have a legitimate concern developing once again. The Mountain West does not have an exit penalty for members if they decide to join another conference as long as the decision is announced prior to September 1 the year before the school plans to switch allegiances.
It seems that Holmoe expected college realignment to resurface in due time.
“When is the next round [of college realignment]? I think the dust will settle, but it will get kicked up again. I don’t know when that is,” Holmoe said. “And so every school, every individual school, including BYU and Boise State, will look out for their best interest. They owe it to themselves to do that. We look out for our best interest. We have for years.”
BYU’s rival, Utah, is already preparing for their final season in the Mountain West. The Utes will move to the Pac-10 next season and will make more then ten times what they currently are in line to make this season with the Mountain West. When the news broke that Utah would leave the conference and not join the Pac-10 with their in-state rivals from BYU the wheels probably got started for BYU to come up with a plan to move on from being seemingly left behind by Utah.
The loss of Utah in the Mountain West is a huge blow despite being able to add Boise State to the conference. Despite Boise State’s success on the football field in recent years the fact remains that Utah is a better over-all athletic program for the conference. To lose one more program would be a possibly catastrophic blow to the conference’s chances of securing an automatic BCS bid. The conference is currently under review for consideration for a BCS bid and although they will be able to add Boise State’s successes to their BCS offering losing Utah and BYU could probably block the automatic bid consideration.
BYU is one of the founding members of the Mountain West Conference, splitting away from an over-populated WAC conference along with original WAC members Utah, Colorado State, Air Force, New Mexico, Wyoming and San Diego State. According to ESPN’s Andy Katz the WAC would be open to the idea of welcoming back BYU in all sports besides football if the school chooses to go independent. “WAC commissioner Karl Benson said earlier this summer that the league ‘would give consideration’ to” taking back BYU in all other sports were the Cougars to go independent,” writes Katz.