Is it more than just a rumor?
For years, BYU fans have debated over the merits of going independent in football.
There are several sources — hey, even ESPN is on it — reporting that BYU is seriously considering leaving the Mountain West Conference, going independent in football and taking the rest of its sports to the Western Athletic Conference.
Talk about a bold move.
The BYU administration isn't about to cross this bridge until they have done a ton of research, so you know they've done their due diligence.
Funny, because when we talked to BYU AD Tom Holmoe last month he said, "We know we're not Notre Dame." Yet BYU would be trying to do what Notre Dame has done for years. The Irish have been able to survive and flourish (at least financially) as an independent in football even though they haven't been that good lately. The huge TV deal with NBC helps and Notre Dame has an auto qualifier deal with the BCS.
Holmoe also referred many times to BYU's new Broadcast Center, BYU-TV and the possibilities they provide.
At the APSE Convention in June, Holmoe said BYU wouldn't be motivated to make a move for financial reasons. If things go down as the rumors indicate, it will be interesting to hear the reasons BYU gives for pulling the trigger.
A move this big does bring up some interesting questions, like:
Who would BYU play?
Without a conference schedule, the Cougars would have the freedom to pick and choose. It would be tricky. You'd have to play some top-level BCS teams, some mid-level BCS teams and a couple of lesser teams for easy wins. Utah would be on the schedule, for sure, and Utah State. How about a home-and-home with Notre Dame? For sure Army and Navy, who also play an independent football schedule. There's five games already. You could throw in a couple of Pac 10 teams, a couple of WAC teams and maybe a Big 12 or SEC team.
Some cool possibilities.
How about the TV thing?
The MWC's current TV contract with the Mtn. is very small, considering what other league's (SEC, Big 10) are getting. And there are still several years left on that contract, with not a lot of room for negotiations. BYU has a brand-new HD broadcast facility, and BYU-TV is carried by both satellite providers and locally on cable. Great for BYU fans both in Utah and beyond. The commercial aspect of BYU games on BYU-TV opens up some interesting possibilities.
What about the other sports?
Under Dave Rose, BYU men's basketball is 12-4 against teams from the WAC, so the Cougars would likely dominate. This move would also allow BYU to continue to dominate in sports like cross country, softball, women's soccer, etc. Compare that to the move Utah just made to the Pac 10, where many of its Olympic sports teams are likely to get crushed.
What would happen to the MWC?
Basketball would still be decent but football? Yikes. Yes, TCU is good and Boise State would challenge but there's a HUGE gap between those two teams and the others in the league. Without BYU, how would this league survive?
Here's the part that bears the most scrutiny. BYU would be leaving a league midway through an evaluation process to receive an automatic BCS bid. If Utah hadn't left for the Pac 10, it would have been a lock. Even with Boise State joining in 2011, there's still work to do for the MWC to qualify in all three required categories.
If BYU goes independent, there has to be a least some assurance that the BCS would CONSIDER an auto bid for the Cougars if they met certain qualification. Otherwise, what's the point?
Here's one thing we do know: If BYU is leaving the MWC, it has to give notice before Sept. 1.