Saturday, February 27, 2010

Random BYU Conference Expansion Thoughts

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I keep reading about the conference expansion topic/debate and have a few random thoughts as it relates to BYU.

• What exactly does it mean when people call a school a “research institution”? Why isn’t BYU considered to be such an institution? While I was at BYU my professors dedicated a lot of time to research. They submitted their results to scholastic journals, and their results were frequently published. Go to the BYU home page and you often find the front page promoting a research project done by a faculty member. As an alumnus, I get the regular publications in the mail that are full of stories about the research done at the school. I also know that President Merrill J. Bateman initiated a one-of-a-kind program that integrated the undergraduate student body into the research efforts. While many claim that BYU has less graduate students and programs as other institutions, I have yet to see anyone quantify and compare the research done at BYU and other institutions.

• Am I the only one who fails to see the connection between graduate research and undergraduate athletics? So because BYU does not conduct as much graduate research as the Pac-10 schools, its undergraduate athletes can’t be affiliated with the Pac-10 athletes. As I have explained before, we should not let one get in the way of the other. Why does the conference structure even exist? Was it started by athletics or academics? Does it really make sense to exclude the best teams that can increase the value of the product on the playing field because the school’s overall level of academics isn’t as high, and vice versa? Why can’t we take a single aspect of a university and create conferences that way, so one school would be a member of several different conferences. Let’s have a conference system based on the merits of a university’s research, a university’s athletics programs, a university’s performing arts, a university’s visual arts, and the membership of each conference system will be completely independent of each other. Therefore, schools that are A schools in sports and B schools in music can be in an A conference for sports and a B conference for music. We already see forms of this. Look at the Big East for football and basketball. Boise State competes in the Pac-10 for wrestling.

• If we believe what nobody wants to admit (money is the driving force and will be the X factor), then BYU should be a better value to the Pac-10 than Utah. Media markets = money. Utah will bring the Salt Lake City market to the Pac-10, but BYU will bring the Salt Lake City market and the Provo market. Take it from one who lived in both markets, Utah gets no coverage in Provo, but Salt Lake City covers BYU just as much as it does Utah. Throw in the nationwide aspect of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the Pac-10 would stand to make much more by inviting BYU.

• Can the liberal Pac-10 schools be as concerned about BYU’s conservativeness and association with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as we all think they are? Wouldn’t adding a school with view points on the other end of the spectrum help avoid close-mindedness and allow you to form an opinion only after understanding all sides of the issue? Students would graduate from the university better equipped for life in a more balanced world. Anyways, I thought the liberal position was to be inclusive—to include everyone no matter your lifestyle or your beliefs. From my experience, however, BYU is a very open-minded institution. The religious aspect keeps the mind of professors and students open to more than what we can see, what has always been, and what can be achieved even if public opinion says otherwise.

POLL RESULTS: Who is the most likely to get drafted?

Thank you to everyone who voted in the poll. It was a tight race, but Dennis Pitta came out just ahead of Manase Tonga on the question "Who is the most likely to get drafted?" No other players received votes.

A new poll has been posted: "Who is the best BYU tight end of all-time?" Cast your vote today.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


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Last November, Max Hall called out the University of Utah. At the time, he said "I think the whole university and their fans and the organization is classless." He later provided additional details of what led him to form such an opinion and apologized for generalizing his statements.

Apology or not, the damage was done, and the gulf between the two schools widened.

Without getting into the debate of was Max Hall right in saying what he said and was what he said true, Utah may have a chance in the somewhat near future to silence Hall and all critics. Utah can prove that it is a classy organization and university by the way it handles what many believe to be an imminent invitation to join the Pac-10 conference.

While the prognosticators feel Utah fits the Pac-10’s needs geographically, institutionally, competitively, and monetarily, they don’t feel that BYU fits institutionally and monetarily (at least not if Utah is already a conference member). This leads to a fairly common consensus nationwide that Utah will be invited and BYU will not. This is where Utah can make a stand and be classy.

Utah can be classy by conditioning its acceptance of an invite to the Pac-10 on the inclusion of BYU in the Pac-10 or another BCS automatic qualifying conference, such as the Big 12 (in the event a vacancy occurs). While I cannot find anything inherently wrong in Utah unconditionally accepting an invitation to the Pac-10, I cannot find anything classy about Utah jumping ship from the Mountain West Conference (MWC) without looking out for BYU.

Interestingly enough, University of Utah president Michael K. Young is a BYU graduate and BYU president Cecil O. Samuelson is a University of Utah graduate. While both presidents have the best interest of their current school in mind, this is college athletics we are talking about. Surely, President Young still feels he has loyalties to, indebtedness to, and interests in his alma mater (literal translation is fostering mother). Furthermore, President Samuelson is not your average Utah alumnus himself. He was heavily involved with the University long after he graduated. It seems plausible that these two men could reach across the aisle and form an alliance to work together for the good of both schools throughout this period of conference expansion uncertainty.

It is not like such an alliance would be completely without precedent in college football. The reports are that when the Big 12 formed from the Big 8 and the Southwest Conference in the 1990s, the governor of Texas made Texas Tech, Baylor, Texas, and Texas A&M a package deal. If the Big 8 wanted one of them, then it had to take all of them. The same goes for leaving the conference. If one leaves the Big 12, they all leave. Utah could require they be included in the Pac-10 as a package deal with BYU. The other alternative would be similar to a trade in the NBA between three or more teams. The Pac-10 could try to convince the Big 12 that Utah and Colorado joining the Pac-10 and BYU filling Colorado’s vacancy was mutually beneficial.

It might be very difficult for Utah fans to admit it, BYU has indirectly lent the Utah football program a helping hand. BYU dominated Utah in the 70s and 80s in the midst of its unparalleled success. That success had a ripple effect that helped Utah recruit better players and that brought more money to Utah as a member of the same conference.

BYU deserves a lot of the credit for opening the door for Utah to be invited to play in two BCS bowl games. The impact of BYU being snubbed by the Bowl Alliance in 1996 and by the BCS in 2001 led to the rules that were in place in 2004 that guaranteed Utah its spot in a BCS bowl; otherwise, there is no doubt that Utah would have been snubbed, too.

The Whittinghams are a BYU family. Fred Whittingham played at BYU in the 1960s and his son Kyle followed in his footsteps from 1978-81. Utah hired the elder Whittingham as its defensive coordinator in 1992, and Kyle joined him in 1994. Kyle was made defensive coordinator in 1995 and was promoted to head coach in 2005. The turning point in Utah football came at this time. The Utah defense anchored the team success during the Ron McBride era, and it was the only reason Utah was able to hire a coach like Urban Myer. Where would Utah be without the Whittinghams? Where would the Whittinghams be without BYU?

An organization with class is grateful for and acknowledges those who help them achieve. BYU has had an undeniable hand in Utah’s football achievements in the last decade. This could be the time that Utah returns the favor.

With all that being said, I am a die hard Cougar, and I don’t think that BYU will be devastated if Utah chooses the classless road and leaves BYU stranded in a broken MWC. As a divinely established institution led by an inspired board of directors, I believe that the school would not have invested all that it has in the football program if it was going to end up as an insignificant participant. BYU does not put its trust in "the flesh of man." This is not a desperate plea for Utah to help. This is a challenge for Utah to show us the true measure of its character.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Real Reason BYU won’t be Invited to the Pac-10

We all know that the Pac-10 Conference is looking to expand. We all know that BYU is in the mix for one of the presumed to be two invitations to join. We all think we know the reasons why, in the end, BYU will not be invited: BYU is not a research institution, BYU is sponsored by a religion that clashes culturally and politically with several existing Pac-10 members, and BYU does not bring enough money to the table. Well, we are wrong.

Each school has a vote on whether a team should be invited. Hear is a look at how I think each team will vote on the question: “Should the Pac-10 invite BYU to join the conference?”

1. Arizona: Yea. The Wildcats won two out of its three football games against BYU from 2006-2008. The 2008 win gave Arizona its first 8 win season and first bowl win since 1998. It also saved head coach Mike Stoops’ job.

2. Arizona State: Nay. Two words: Max Hall. Hall redshirted at Arizona State in 2004 and then left for his mission. After his mission he transferred to BYU and started from 2007 to 2009. His record as a starter was 32-7. Arizona State’s record during that same time was 19-18. Even though Arizona State has not had an undefeated season since it was in the WAC with BYU, the Max Hall situation tips the scales against inviting BYU.

3. USC: Yea. USC was BYU’s biggest supporter. The school lobbied vehemently with the other nine schools to vote yea as well. USC has not won a national championship since its 2003 to 2004 home-and-home series with BYU. In fact, the Trojans won the national championship both years they played BYU. They reasoned that with BYU on the schedule they would not only win seven consecutive Pac-10 championships, but they would win seven consecutive national championships.

4. UCLA: Nay. This was a no brainer for the Bruins. Even with Norm Chow and Ben Olson on their side in 2008, they still lost 59-0. UCLA is unwilling to schedule BYU for the next 59 years.

5. Cal: Nay. This nay vote is not because Cal is the most notoriously liberal school in the Pac-10. Cal is able to get over all the political and cultural differences between BYU and its sponsor religion; otherwise, they would have never hired BYU alum Tom Holmoe as the head football coach. The real problem is what Holmoe did to Cal football. In Holmoe’s tenure from 1997 to 2001, Cal was 16-39 and 1-10 in his final season.

6. Stanford: Nay. Jim Harbaugh pleaded with school administrators to vote yea. He missed his chance to take a national championship away from BYU in 1984 when a broken arm kept him out of the Michigan line up for the Holiday Bowl. With BYU in the conference he would be in position to rob BYU of a national championship if BYU is ever in that position again. Alas, Harbaugh is only one man. Stanford is still fuming about losing the 2002 women’s cross country national championship to BYU, especially since Stanford was initially declared the winner. They also fear that they will lose recruiting battles with BYU for top LDS athletes like Mark Madsen and Kirk Chambers.

7. Oregon State: Nay. It was bad enough that BYU had to embarrass the Beavers the way they did in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas last December, but did they have to do it with former Oregon State defensive standout Bronco Mendenhall as their coach? There was a reason that the two schools had not played each other for over twenty years. I don’t think that Oregon State wants to start seeing BYU on an annual basis.

8. Oregon: Nay. Like Stanford, Oregon is afraid of recruiting battles with BYU. They remember how hard it was to get Haloti Ngata to come to Eugene instead of Provo. The Ducks also remember the 38-8 Las Vegas Bowl beat down in 2006, and they still wake up with cold sweats at night after having flashbacks of Ty Detmer orchestrating a 19-point second half comeback win in 1989.

9. Washington State: Nay. Washington State wants to be the alpha Cougar. They don’t think they can compete with the BYU Cougars. They have their own horror stories of Ty Detmer and how he passed for nearly 1,000 yards in two games against them. In one of those games Detmer directed a 43-point second half outburst to overcome a 29-7 halftime deficit for a 50-36 victory. The two schools haven’t played since.

10. Washington: Nay, but they reserve the right to change to Yea. Within the last year, Washington opted out of a contract for future games with BYU. They don’t want to play BYU as a non-conference opponent, let alone as a conference foe. Do you think this has anything to do with the way the 2008 game ended with the blocked extra point attempt following the Jake Locker celebration penalty? However, Washington does like what former BYU quarterback Steve Sarkisian is doing as head coach, and they can avenge the 2008 loss with an opening day win in Provo this year. Therefore, Washington is willing to change its vote to a yes if they like the way things go in 2010.

The final results speak for themselves: 2 Yeas, 8 Nays. The last I heard, BYU would need a unanimous vote to be invited. The real reason BYU will not be invited to join the Pac-10 is that most Pac-10 schools have too much to lose, and little to gain, by competing against BYU

The Editor appreciates all feedback. He can be reached via email at

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


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I know this is old news, but I have not had the chance to give my take on Harvey Unga's decision to come back for his senior year.

Let me say from the outset that I am not privy to any of the Unga family secrets, or the information that Unga received from the NFL, coaches, and former BYU players. That being said, I can't find any reason to justify Unga leaving school early.

What more can he achieve?

This would be a good reason for Harvey to go. Unga is already the all-time career rushing leader at BYU. He has rushed for over 1,000 yards three years straight. He has scored 45 touchdowns. With the departure of Max Hall, Dennis Pitta, Jan Jorgensen, and the rest of the senior class, he can't say he wanted to come back for a chance at a BCS bowl like Jerry Hughes did for TCU.

Two case studies

1. Luke Staley--Following his unprecedented 2001 season when he won the Doak Walker Award, Staley declared for the NFL draft. He was drafted in the seventh round by the Detroit Lions and never caught on.

2. Austin Collie--Following his unprecendented 2008 season when he led the nation in receiving, Collie delcared for the NFL draft. He was drafted in the fourth round by the Indianapolis Colts and contributed immediately to a team that played in the Super Bowl.

Both players stood to increase their draft stock by playing their senior years, but the difference was their health. Staley suffered a season ending injury against Mississippi State twelve games into the season. That was only the beginning to his medical history. Although Collie successfully made the jump, Unga fits more into the Luke Staley category--same position, same history of injuries. Pro Scouts would downgrade him severely if he were to come out this year for his history of injuries. However, if Unga can go through his senior year without injury, pro teams will be able to look past some of his past problems. He will gain much more by having a healthy senior year than he would lose by having another injury plagued year like 2009.

No Hype

Normally when a player runs for 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons and scores a lot of touchdowns like Unga did in 2007 and 2008, they attract a lot of attention. Harvey did not. Even when he eclipsed the 1,000 yard plateau for a thrid time this year no one made a big deal about it. Maybe if he had played and had a good game against Oklahoma he would have attracted some attention. In any case, if you want a fair shake in the NFL, especially at running back, it is better if you are drafted by a team that believes in you. Coming back for his senior year can make that happen.

Although Unga's achievements as a Cougar are already better than anyone before him, the timing is not right for Unga to make a move as risky as forefiting a year of college eligibility to go for a career in the NFL. He needs his senior year to improve his national profile and durability in the minds of NFL decision makers.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Max Hall won the Super Bowl

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Yes, the above statement is false. Max Hall did not dress as Drew Brees and play in Super Bowl XLIV for the New Orleans Saints. In fact, with Austin Collie on the Colts side of the ball, Hall probably wasn't even rooting for the Saints. However, the Saints' Super Bowl win and Drew Brees' MVP selection has me think that Max Hall was a winner Super Bowl Sunday.

Brees and Hall are similar in size. ESPN lists Brees as 6-0, 209 lbs. and Hall as 6-1, 201 lbs. Brees used his accuracy in a short passing game to quarterback the Saints to victory. One of Hall's assets is his accuracy. One of Hall's drawbacks is his arm strength, but arm strength was a knock on Brees, too, when he came out of Purdue in 2000.

Now that Brees has shown that a team can win a Super Bowl with a quarterback like him, shouldn't that increase Max Hall's draft stock?

The Ins and Outs of BYU and Pac-10 Expansion

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By now you have probably heard that the Pac-10 has joined the Big 10 in looking to expand, and BYU is on a short list of prime candidates. Depending on who you talk to, the other prime candidates are Utah, Colorado, TCU, Boise State, and Texas. BYU fans have dreamed of the possiblity of joining the Pac-10 ever since Arizona and Arizona State left the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) in 1978 to make the Pac-8 the Pac-10.  While a strong case can be made by BYU to join the Pac-10, I am not so sure that jumping ship to join the Pac-10 is the best thing for BYU.

If BYU joins the Pac-10, does that really help recruiting? I don't see Bronco Mendenhall changing his recruiting strategy much because BYU's conference affiliation will not change the honor code restrictions or where members of the Church are located. True, BYU does lose a lot of top LDS (Latter-day Saints)recruits to Pac-10 teams, but I have my doubts that they would have made the difference between the actual results and going to a BCS game the last two years. 

Pac-10 affiliation would generate more revenue and more television exposure. Those things are nice, but does that mean BYU will get to the BCS? (Do you see where I am going with this?) The TV exposure, along with the major conference affiliation, would probably bump BYU up a few spots in the polls, but the biggest factor in poll rankings is your overall win-loss record.

The Pac-10 champ is guaranteed an automatic bid to the BCS. How often will BYU be the Pac-10 Champion? I don't doubt that BYU can acclimate itself to the Pac-10 and win some championships, but I think we will see results more like the 90s as opposed to the early 80s or what we have had the last four years. In a Pac-12 BYU would not need to play every team every year, which should play to BYU's favor. I don't like conference championship games since an 8-4 team can beat a 12-0 team and be considered the best in the conference, however, I think over the long run BYU would win the same number of times as the underdog as it would lose as the favorite. No Pac-10 team has received an at-large BCS bid since USC in 2002. In 2004, when Texas and California were vying for the final at-large bid, Texas leaped over Cal for that bid. Cal's only loss was by 6 points to undefeated number 1 USC. In that game Cal was on the USC 9 with less than two minutes to play.

BYU can stay in the Mountain West Conference (MWC) and build on what was started 11 years ago. The MWC has come to the point where even without automatic qualifying status, its champion (with one loss, maybe even two losses) is almost guaranteed an at large BCS berth by finishing in the top 12. That is, of course, if Boise State loses during the year. I am much more in favor of the MWC helping to bring equality to college football than I am of the BCS appeasing critics by incorporating the best of the rest.

The MWC is on the verge of gaining automatic qualifying status in the BCS. Over the last two years, the MWC has out played the Big East and the ACC, and is gaining ground on the Big 10 and the Pac-10. With two more years like the last two, which is not a stretch of the imagination, the MWC should be a shoe in for an automatic BCS berth for its champion. Even with Utah and TCU coming on strong, I think BYU would win the MWC more often than it would win the Pac-10.

Even if the MWC does not gain automatic qualifying status in two years, I think we are going to see some major overhauls to conference alignments and the BCS in the very foreseeable future. If the Big 10 takes Pitt or another high level Big East team, I don't see how the Big East can retain its automatic qualifying status. How many times can the BCS turn its head while other conferences pick pocket the Big East and the Big East plugs its holes with mid-major teams? Furthermore, the BCS is being investigated by the United States Justice Department. When all the dust settles, it may just be better for BYU to stay where it is at.

All of this conjecture ignores the possibility that BYU could get a better offer. The Big 12 could come calling if it loses Colorado to the Pac-10, or Texas to either the Big 10 or Pac-10, or Missouri to the Big 10. Although the Big 12 could replace the Pac-10 in all my arguments above, I get excited about the idea of BYU going to the Big 12, but I get bad vibes about BYU going to the Pac-10.

In any case, I think we can all agree that if Utah goes to the Pac-10 and TCU ends up in the Big 12, BYU should accept any offer it can get. The MWC could survive the loss of one of its big three by quickly making an offer to Boise State, but if two out of the three go, the odd one out will be in a bad situation.