Blog Entry

Declaring some football independents on July 4

Posted on: July 4, 2011 2:52 pm
Edited on: July 4, 2011 6:21 pm
Posted by Bryan Fischer

Happy Independence Day everyone. It's been a remarkable 235 years but America is still going strong despite plenty of ups and downs. On the gridiron, it seems like Notre Dame, Navy and others have been independent of conference overlords for just as long. With BYU joining their ranks last week and in honor of the holiday, it's a perfect time to look at what programs could follow their lead and go out on their own.

While it's doubtful that any of these programs will actually pursue going independence in the near future, perhaps they could/would/should on second thought. Feel free to bring up some other programs that could go out on their own in the comments below.

Boise State

The Broncos have made quite the run the past few years, winning two BCS bowls and posting a remarkable three undefeated seasons. Boise State was originally a junior college who has, rather quickly, risen in the ranks from an independent in Division II to their current place in the Mountain West. Their wide-open style of play and ability to beat more talented teams has certainly earned them a national reputation and with that comes eyeballs. For example, last season's game against Virginia Tech earned a 6.8 overnight rating, making it the highest rated Labor Day night game since 1990.

From the Blue Turf to the trick plays, a lot of what has made Boise State football a national brand is due to the exposure they get on ESPN. For years they had several featured games on the network and, even if they were on late at night on the East Coast, people were at least able to see the games. Boise State is losing a lot of that exposure with the move to the Mountain West (with games on The Mtn. and Versus) in exchange for an increase in television revenue, which is expected to be around $800,000 a year based on the current conference agreements. If Boise State gets unhappy with the arrangement and decides to go independent, they could follow the lead of BYU. The Cougars recently signed a deal with ESPN to televise several football games with estimates putting the value of the deal at between $800,000 and $1.2 million per home game. As a program with a love-them-or-hate-them reputation that causes people to tune in, going independent might make sense down the road.

Florida State

If there's one team on this list that is actually familiar with football independence, it's Florida State. The Seminoles were conference-less from 1951-1991 prior to joining the ACC. In a curious twist of fate, the school was invited by the ACC to join their conference but were rejected by the SEC. Regardless, Florida State is aware of what it takes to be an independent and what challenges and benefits come with it. While most believe their relationship with the ACC is a good one, one never knows what will happen if another wave of conference realignment hits. The ACC is, mostly, a basketball-centric league and as winners of two somewhat recent national titles, Florida State is much more of a football school than the conference's other members.

Scheduling always gets tricky but Florida State has a long history of playing both Miami and Florida. Both games are usually big ratings winners so, like Boise State, the program would likely do well financially getting a majority of the television money versus splitting it with fellow conference members. Throw in nearby UCF and USF and the Seminoles could have nearly half a schedule from in-state programs alone. Add in a big name program, such as the one against Oklahoma this year, and Florida State could get back to being a much bigger draw nationally like they were in the 1990's. Of course, as with most Florida teams, they'd also have to win to stay relevant.


The way things are going with the NCAA investigation into Oregon's football and basketball programs, it's likely more than a few Ducks fans have thought about leaving the NCAA altogether, much less the Pac-12. While the program itself hasn't seen much success on the gridiron outside of the past decade, there's one thing that lands Oregon on this list: Nike. The Beaverton, Ore., based company has already made the Ducks their featured program by ensuring they have the latest Nike gear and well over 160 uniform combinations (feel free to mix and match your own Duck uniform here).

The school already has an affiliate network of television and radio stations and it wouldn't be all that surprising if they teamed with Nike to get an actual cable channel going. Given what Nike has already done in the marketing sphere, the idea of "their" team crisscrossing the country might raise as many eyebrows in Indianapolis as it does in Eugene. At the same time, it's hard not to see the idea floated in Phil Knight's office at some point, is it?


Go ahead and insert your own Big 12-Texas joke here. If there was one lesson to be learned from last summer's realignment saga, it was that Texas is the major player in college athletics - and for good reason. The football program brought in the most revenue in the country last year with a staggering $94 million take and a nearly $69 million profit. If there's any program that could afford any initial financial hit from going independent, it's the Longhorns.

The program is also uniquely positioned (perhaps more so than anybody on this list) to head out on their own. The Longhorn Network will launch in late August and, with ESPN's backing, figures to expand the Texas brand into households across the country. Like BYU with BYUtv, having their own network already up and running would be a huge advantage over others that would be pondering a similar move. Schedule-wise, they would have no problem scheduling games based on the teams nearby and their draw nationally. Add in the fact that Texas is a large public school with plenty of alumni and fans across the country, and it's possible that football independence actually makes a lot of sense if administrators don't find the arrangement with the Big 12 to be working out.


If you're making a list of things that a school should have if they're considering going independent, USC would have a lot of check marks next to their name. Lots of alumni all over the country? Check. Nationally recognized brand? Check. Traditional college football power? Check. Given the school's connections to Hollywood and Silicon Valley, it wouldn't be all that surprising if they were able to quickly move onto some unique and intriguing media options if they decided to pursue football independence.

The recent NCAA sanctions have certainly hurt the reputation of the school and the football program which might actually be one reason why the school decides to make the jump from the Pac-12 to join the ranks of rival Notre Dame as an independent. Plenty of alumni are not happy with the Pac-10's lack of support in their infractions case (unlike, say the Big Ten with Ohio State) and that cuts into some of the good will Larry Scott has brought with a new media rights package. The Trojans have plenty of history of going around the country and playing teams, why not a little more of that as an independent? The Pac-10 was known as USC and nine others during the run under Pete Carroll, so maybe the idea of separating from the bunch isn't too far-fetched.


Since: Jul 29, 2009
Posted on: July 5, 2011 3:53 pm

Declaring some football independents on July 4

Love the idea of an independent Texas.Good move considering they can't compete with Oklahoma. I mean the Sooners get all the so called second ranked Texas kids and continually WOOOOOOOPEM. I'd be running scared too after last years performance, maybe they can follow the lead of the ND program and stay out of the BCS picture. Would also love the Sooners back in the SEC to set the record straight about dominance.

Since: May 25, 2007
Posted on: July 5, 2011 2:14 pm

Declaring some football independents on July 4

Your post was factually inaccurate. BYU tried for years to work with the MWC and its TV deal but was rebuffed for its efforts. When independence became the only way to get free of the worst TV deal in college athletics, BYU went that direction, but did not intend to keep its other sports in the MWC but in the WAC instead. The deal was already in place, but the MWC made the real power play and raided the WAC for Nevada and Fresno State (and later Hawaii) in an effort to keep BYU in the MWC. 
Commissioner Craig Thompson's plan did not work as BYU still left. Even Thompson knew that BYU was the national flagship of his conference and did everything he could to strong arm the Cougars into staying.  
As for your statement of BYU not winning conference championships, the Cougars put up back-to-back titles in 2006 and 2007, and the likelihood of them not winning more is merely an ignorant opinion.

Since: Oct 6, 2009
Posted on: July 5, 2011 1:41 pm

Declaring some football independents on July 4

Fact check! You're a little off: BYU recently told the MWC that their mtn tv network was not good enough and completely inhibiting the exposure of a national brand in BYU. The MWC was unwilling to work with BYU on a better tv package as they once promised, despite BYU offering its much higher end facilities to help out the fledgling mtn network. ESPN comes along and offers a much more lucrative tv contract, so BYU weighs the offer and takes it (who wouldn't?), but more for the exposure than the money. Had any other team in the MWC had the national brand of BYU they would have bolted the MWC long ago for an offer like this from ESPN. Are MWC teams really too good to admit that? Yes, their pride is too good for them to admit that BYU was carrying a conference of dead weight.

You're also wrong about BYU pulling some kind of power move where their other teams would stay in the MWC. BYU was actually planning on their other teams going to the WAC, until the MWC impolitely ransacked the WAC. NO MATTER! BYU got a better deal for its other programs with the WCC. BYU doesn't need the MWC and shouldn't feel bad that the MWC was unable to blackmail them into staying for the sake of everyone but BYU. Freedom at last!

Since: Mar 29, 2008
Posted on: July 5, 2011 1:25 pm

Declaring some football independents on July 4

I don't think any independents should be allowed in college football. It just messes things up and makes for more whining. Boise State whines enough as it is, and if they are given this opportunity they will whine about being discriminated against because they are an independent. We will see what they are worth when they travel to Athens, GA for the first game of the season. The Dawgs will give them a beating to remember like they did a few years ago, then all of this talk about Boise being a national championship contender because they beat up on cupcakes every week and luck up and beat a distracted good team every now and then will go away (if the media has any sense at all). There's something about SEC good ol boy football that gives some of these other teams a reality check when they go against them. Maybe it's the collard greens ;).

Since: Dec 10, 2008
Posted on: July 5, 2011 1:21 pm

Declaring some football independents on July 4

mark my words in about 5-8 years texas will go the byu route and go independent......the drama last year showed that texas is looking out for texas and with their network running n their tv contract they dont need the rest of the big12. some will say im being crazy but texas has it own market and its own brand lets be honest they are like the southern notre dame. all the other dont make much sense but texas going indy does, ou/tamu have back deals to get into the sec if needed its the rest of the old big8/last of swc that should be worried.

Since: Apr 22, 2009
Posted on: July 5, 2011 12:35 pm

Declaring some football independents on July 4

 the Big 12 ever did collapse, as it still might, Kansas is a big enough national basketball brand that the Jayhawks could go independent.  WHAT?? REALLY!!

Since: Dec 14, 2007
Posted on: July 5, 2011 12:25 pm

Declaring some football independents on July 4

Truthfully, none of the big name schools can remain a true independent school.  Yes, some of them have been able to stand as independents in football, yet if you notice, they must latch onto another conference for all of their other sports.  Notre Dame may be a football independent, but they play in the Big East for all of their other sports.  Are they a true independent, or are they merely telling the rest of their conference that their football does not measure up to their standards?

BYU recently decided to tell the Mountain West Conference that their football program was to good for the conference, even if they have not won the conterence championship for the last couple of years and the likelihood of winning it, again was diminishing.  So, they pulled a power play and told the conference that they were going to go independent in football but remain in the other sports.  The conference politely told them what they could do with that suggestion, and now BYU will be independent in football but play in the West Coast Conference for all of the other sports.

Army and Navy are football independents, but can afford to be because of their unique funding and national recruiting status.  If any other school would be a valid independent, I would consider Air Force and not the five schools listed in this article.  Still, one must recognize that both Army and navy participate in the Patriot League for most of their other athletic teams.  Where would Air Force play their other sports if they withdrew their football team from the Mountain West Conference.

Maybe Notre Dame can continue to remain independent under the current circumstances, and the two independent service academies can continue as independents but very few other programs can do so.  BYU is merely using their independence to try leveraging themselves into a BCS conference.  I doubt it will work, the old Pac Ten had an option to take them with Utah, but opted for Colorado instead.  Independence has consequences beyond football for these colleges.  Going independent requires finding a conference desperate enough to accept the terms of a program wanting an independent football team.

Since: Oct 23, 2006
Posted on: July 5, 2011 11:59 am

Declaring some football independents on July 4

Texas is the only one of these with a pulse (maybe 5%-10% chance).   They are the only ones on this list that even remotely makes a little sense.  The other ones simply don't have enough nearby regional rivals, alumni, state population/support, endowment, stadium size, overall athletics, and stand alone academic prowess to make it work.  USC/Florida State are interesting, but USC would not be able to get enough regional good teams to fill out a decent schedule.  Florida State is not the top supported team in state.  The others are not even close.

Since: Jun 5, 2011
Posted on: July 5, 2011 10:53 am

Declaring some football independents on July 4

Boise State is the only team I agree with here.  The rest of the teams make enough money and get enough exposure as it is.  USC has no reason to whine.  The were caught cheating and they suffered at least half of the consequences they deserved.  They have it made under the current system, too.  If they don't make the BCS title game, they usually get a de facto home game against a Big Ten dinosaur in the Rose Bowl.  USC has nothing to gain by going independent.

Since: May 23, 2011
Posted on: July 5, 2011 10:38 am

Declaring some football independents on July 4

How does it help them to give up what should be an automatic BCS bid every year? 


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