Blog Entry

Dissecting BYU's move to independence

Posted on: September 1, 2010 3:03 pm
Edited on: September 1, 2010 3:55 pm
 

Maybe it started in 1996. That year BYU went 13-1 in the regular season and was ranked fifth in both polls. In the old Bowl Alliance, there was no room for the Cougars even then in the four big bowls that would become the foundation of the BCS -- Sugar, Fiesta, Orange and Rose.

That year No. 7 Penn State, No. 20 Texas (both Fiesta) and No. 10 Virginia Tech (Sugar) all got into big-time bowls before BYU.

The Cougars settled for the Cotton bowl, beat Kansas State and became the first team in major-college history to win 14 games in a season. That year, BYU finished No. 5. Florida, 12-1, won Steve Spurrier's only national championship.

That perceived injustice would lead WAC commissioner Karl Benson to lobby Congress for his schools' inclusion in the major-bowl postseason. Out of that trip to Washington D.C. eventually evolved the BCS two years later.

Or maybe it was what happened in 1999. That's when the Mountain West formed with BYU as its lead dog.

It certainly had to hit home in the last four seasons when BYU won 11 games three times, 10 games in the other season. And went to the Las Vegas Bowl each time.

It was clear that the last non-BCS school to win a national championship had to try something revolutionary to win another one. That's why it made sense for BYU to go independent in football. Everything else, the shifting of most other sports to the West Coast Conference, is an afterthought.

This was about the long-term viability of BYU football. Why did it take this radical step? Because it could. It had leverage.  Utah has been good since 2004. Boise State has had one of the country's best records since 2000. TCU just played in it first BCS bowl.

BYU has been a national power for decades. It is a true football factory. Used to be Quarterback U. Lavell Edwards, Steve Young, Robbie Bosco, all that.  It did win that national championship in '84.

It finally became time to separate itself. ESPN bought in with an eight-year agreement to televise BYU's home games. BYU already has its own network (BYU TV). Now it has its matchmaker. ESPN executive Dave Brown is one of the sport's power brokers when it comes arranging made-for-TV matchups.  That will help a lot when it comes to scheduling games. If that sounds a lot like Notre Dame and NBC, you're right.

"We're going forward with an opportunity to extend our reach, not to play it safe," AD Tom Holmoe said.

 The final straw might have been the Mountain West  "attacking" BYU last week. In an effort to keep the school in the conference (and wreck the WAC), Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson invited Fresno State and Nevada.

Before that, Benson had devised a plan to lure BYU back into the WAC by luring San Diego State, UNLV and Texas El-Paso.

The only "winner" was BYU. Alone. It had a problem with the MWC's relative anonymity. The conference isn't fully affiliated with ESPN. MWC games are shown on Versus and CBS College Sports. The MWC's conference network, The mtn., hasn't turned a profit yet. That BYU signed off on this strategy years ago to keep from having to play mid-week games hardly matters.

The WAC wasn't an option because of questions about its long-term viability after Thompson's Fresno-Nevada raid. If we've learned anything from this Summer of Sleaze it's that the only accountability is to yourself. In addition to the ESPN agreement, BYU also announced a six-game series with Notre Dame.

 "We'll do all we can to assist them in scheduling," ND AD Jack Swarbrick said. :We look forward to playing them."

The way it played out, the MWC and WAC were assured of mutual "destruction." Things broke down when Utah bolted for the Pac-10. That seriously wounded the MWC's chances of getting a temporary automatic BCS bid in 2012 and 2013. BYU knew it.

When the WAC lost Boise State, it tried an end-run to get UNLV and San Diego State, in a bold attempt to lure back BYU. When Thompson got wind of that, he tried to collapse the WAC. Fresno State and Nevada came but the result was a net loss. The MWC lost Utah and BYU. It gained Boise, Nevada and Fresno. That's hardly an even trade in the BCS' eyes. A net loss in BYU's eyes.

So where are we?  The MWC is now closer to the WAC than it is the BCS.  The WAC's best program is Hawaii -- if the Warriors don't go independent -- maybe Louisiana Tech. The glory days of Boise may be in jeopardy playing a tougher MWC schedule in the future. Even with the addition of Boise and the retention of TCU, the MWC lost most of its traction for that BCS bid.

 Halfway through a four-year evaluation process for that bid, the MWC is not certain to meet evaluation threshholds needed for an automatic BCS bid. (1. Average ranking of highest-ranked team in a conference; 2. Average conference rank in BCS; 3. Number of teams in top 25 of final BCS).

It's as if the Cuban Missile Crisis actually became a confrontation between the U.S. and Russia. Both conferences are diminished.  There are no winners. The WAC will fill in with I-AA programs, probably from the West Coast if Hawaii stays in the league. The MWC's schedule strength goes down.

BYU determined that it could make more money and perhaps get easier access to the BCS controlling the schedule.  Spreading the Mormon faith via these stand-alone games had to be a factor too. Its BCS access point will suffer (automatic only if BYU finishes No. 1 or No. 2, "eligible" in top 14). But as I reported earlier, the BCS and BYU have at least had conversations. Don't be surprised if football gets some kind of relief on that issue. As it stands, BYU is in the same BCS boat with Army and Navy.

"Right now the BCS is not the reason we made this move," Holmoe said.


If nothing else, BYU football is going to be a lot richer and a lot more visible. That's not something the MWC and WAC can say.

Comments
corona79
Since: Sep 3, 2006
Posted on: September 1, 2010 4:11 pm
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Since: Nov 19, 2006
Posted on: September 1, 2010 4:00 pm
 

Dissecting BYU's move to independence

A very well stated article.  Boise State, TCU, and Utah have built great football programs, and I mean great programs!  However, BYU was the first non-BCS team to build a strong national football program.  Any college football fan knows who BYU is, whether their opinion is good or bad.  They have known them since the late 1970s.  They continue to be strong to this day.  They haven't been as strong as TCU or Boise State every year in the past number of seasons, but they were the stronger in some of those seasons - consistency.  BYU has earned the right to go out on it's own.  You may all call it arrogance or some big ego issue, but they have earned the right to do this, like it or not.  BYU has already proven to the naysayers that they schedule the big opponents with today's annoucement of future games.  This decision helps BYU financially, visably, and strengthens their recruiting ability.  They already proved they are going to make more money than the TV distribution money they received for the past 3 years from the mtn.



Since: Feb 22, 2010
Posted on: September 1, 2010 3:48 pm
 

Dissecting BYU's move to independence

Go Cougars!






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