The Brigham Young Cougars only have a few more days to consider their options and work out any details if they are going to change their status for football in 2011. It has been more than a week since word leaked out that BYU and the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) had a deal in place to allow BYU to become independent in football and move all other sports to the WAC. While the media frenzy has calmed, it is certain that administrators are still feverishly working at it.
Much has been said and written about BYU's possible move for independence. Before forming an opinion on BYU and its motives for making such a move, I urge everyone to read the following two articles on this matter. Dick Harmon, Deseret News, BYU's broadcast issues boiling over and Greg Wrubell, KSL, Independence Train Not Off the Tracks.
As for the matter at hand, the BYU going independent story has four possible endings.
1. BYU declares independence in football and joins the West Coast Conference (WCC) in all other sports.
This would probably count as the last resort. While the WCC competes in most sports that BYU does (Track and Field, Swimming and Diving, and Softball would be the only exceptions) and some of the basketball teams are very competitive and well respected, this option presents concerns regarding the venue sizes and overall level of competition.
2. BYU declares independence in football and joins the WAC in all other sports, as originally planned.
Fresno State and Nevada are obligated by WAC bylaws to wait until the 2012-2013 academic year to join the MWC. June 30, 2010, was the deadline for WAC schools to announce any intentions to leave the conference for the 2011-12 academic year. That means for one year everything would be just as planned. If the move for independence is intended to be short term and part of a master plan for BYU to get an invite to the Big 12, then the defection of Fresno State and Nevada would not really impact BYU's plans. If the Big 12 is not an option for BYU in the near future, then the WAC would still have one year to regroup and implement a plan to remain viable in 2012.
3. BYU stays in the MWC for all sports, but the MWC makes major concessions.
Foremost among the concessions would be broadcasting independence for BYU. Freedom to broadcast BYU athletics on BYUTV and other available avenues to bring greater exposure to BYU seems to be at the heart of this issue.
4. BYU leaves the MWC to be part of a new conference.
This new conference has been dubbed "the ESPN conference" since ESPN would make it all possible through a television contract that dwarfs the current deal the MWC has with the Mtn. This conference would be comprised of BYU, TCU, Boise State, Air Force, and maybe two teams from the WAC and two teams from Conference USA. For this option to be realistic, schools would have to be strategically selected to ensure the new conference would far exceed the minimum threshold for BCS automatic qualifying status.
BYU will declare independence for football, and the school will have no ties to the MWC. Everyone at BYU from top to bottom seems set on the independent route. If the MWC had not reacted by inviting Fresno State and Nevada, then BYU and the MWC might have been able to compromise. It is contrary to the practice of BYU and its sponsor religion to affiliate with entities that conduct business the way the MWC just did. The other athletic teams will end up in the WAC.