BYU is taking the independent road.
Brigham Young University’s football program is leaving the Mountain West Conference (MWC) to become an independent team, not tied to any specific conference. The resignation takes effect June 30, 2011.
As a shot across the bow for other programs in the country, BYU has aligned with ESPN in an eight year television agreement to broadcast Cougars’ home games. As for the other collegiate sports, BYU athletics will compete in the West Coast Conference.
BYU was looking to work a deal for the football program and almost ran out of options. A deal to go to the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) died last month. Under the deal that didn’t work out, the WAC would have let BYU join the league in all sports except football. Fearing their own issues if the Cougars left the MWC, officials in that conference extended offers to Nevada and Fresno State to join.
They accepted those offers the same day.
While the West Coast Conference has no competing football teams, there are some strong basketball programs there. It is home to powerhouse Gonzaga and other well known programs) Portland and Saint Mary’s). WCC commissioner Jamie Zaninovich began talks with BYU after the WAC deal fell though and put together an agreement in a couple of weeks.
In addition, the WCC schools are private and faith based, making them a good match for a school owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
So why take this chance? The hope for BYU administration is to gain exposure for the program as it branches out nationwide. While losing the guaranteed bowl position the Cougars would get from the Mountain West, the program will still have a higher profile by being on ESPN. That will, in turn, increase the buzz about the university’s network, BYU-TV.
Problems can still occur. In a world where teams seem to be going toward the idea of 16 team superconferences, BYU takes a step backward. It will be the fourth independent in major college football, after Norte Dame, Army and Navy. Not being in a conference creates problems if the football team underperforms and can create difficulties in scheduling future opponents.
But BYU has part of the problem solved in the short term. One of the future opponents will be their independent counterpart, Norte Dame. Details on a six game deal that will run through 2020 are being worked on. Other possible games are with the University of Utah and the University of Texas.
So now after a fun summer of college football movement off the field, Boise State joins the Mountain West in a year. Utah and Colorado will go to the Pac-10 and Nebraska makes its way next year to the Big Ten.
Never mind the near explosion of the Big XII was halted at the last minute. Some experts are already predicting that the West Coast Conference is only a temporary stop for BYU as they make their way toward the Big XII eventually.
The future of college football is just beginning.