……And you thought realignment talk would cease with the opening of the College football season upon us? Sorry but it is not done. Sloppy Joe and Nellie have already had a take on this basically believing that BYU would be wise in claiming independency and joining the ranks of Notre Dame, Army, and Navy.
To recap the latest rumor circulating has to do with Brigham Young University making the jump from the Mountain West Conference to being an Independent in football and in the WAC in other sports. Okay, at first blush like anybody who lives west of the Mississippi you ask yourself why, you may even ask what exactly is BYU trying to do. Those who root for programs that either play BYU regularly or live in a market that has enjoyed a healthy rivalry with the Cougs will ask what has BYU done to warrant to display this type of arrogant behavior? Okay, there’s that little thing called a National Championship in 1984, and a Cotton Bowl in the ’90 where the Steve Sarkisian (he actually did play football) led blue crew finished 13-0 after beating Kansas St.. Beyond those moments, however BYU’s history from the Cotton Bowl victory forward has been very pedestrian; no undefeated seasons, no BCS bowl games and most importantly no BCS Bowl game wins. The fact is this BYU’s football program has been just speed bump albeit higher than let’s say SDSU or UNLV in the road for the real power programs in the MWC; TCU and Utah. BYU at this point is New Mexico with better DVD history in terms of football success in this decade. Heck at this point WAC member, Hawaii has a better BCS bowl resume than BYU.
BYU’s athletic department and particularly the football side of the brain trust is arrogant enough to believe that BYU’s path to a BCS bowl game could be more realistic as an independent than if it were a member of the MWC. This thinking would speak loudly to the MWC; the reason we (BYU) are not going to ever be considered as a legitimate contender for a BCS bowl game is not because of our performance on the field but because of the other schools in the conference; never mind that the criteria actually starts with winning the league, and finishing your regular season schedule undefeated. BYU might want to crawl before it walks so here is what they may want to concentrate on doing first, how about beating or staying within two scores of TCU, but I digress.
Okay I am sure BYU could craft a schedule if they were an independent that would afford them an opportunity to challenge for a BCS bowl game. A sample schedule would be; Utah, Utah St, Notre Dame, Army, Navy, and then they could fill in the schedule with a few Pac-10 programs (Arizona, Arizona St., Stanford, UCLA, Washington) alternating, and a few Big-12 programs and of course programs from parts of the country that have large Latter Day Saint populations and of course four WAC programs that they are mandated to play. You also figure that there will be MWC programs that will continue to play BYU; New Mexico, Wyoming and even C-USA member UTEP enjoyed fierce rivalries with BYU in the WAC days and the Cougs are still a huge draw in those communities.
So what I am saying is that BYU will not have trouble filling out a schedule but is that schedule any better than let’s say the schedule they played last year as an MWC member? The answer is no. My question is would that sample independent schedule, if you add one marquee program, be enough to make the Cougars BCS contender worthy if and this is a big if; if they navigate that schedule undefeated or with one close loss? I don’t know but my feeling is no. There is something BYU should consider, there is a little secret that many choose to ignore. There are many programs that will not play the Cougars, there are programs that do not want to put their 18, 19 and 20 year olds against the 21, 22, 23 and 24 year-olds that dot the BYU roster, the term men vs. boys applies here. BYU should understand as attractive as they may believe their program and fan believe they are, the fact that the PAC-10 grabbed little brother Utah in favor of BYU should speak loudly regarding the national perception of BYU.
A question or even a thought that should be asked is, will BYU finish an independent schedule undefeated? Answer, probably not. Look no further than this; TCU is a program that is a lot like many BCS programs in terms of the athletes they have. In fact, TCU has athletes that are notch below what you find at many BCS schools, and BYU has had no success lately versus the Frogs. So how would they fare versus an SEC program, or even an upper tier ACC program (see Florida St last year). So I ask how relevant will BYU be finishing 9-3 or 8-4 on a regular basis. How relevant is BYU now considering that it has less BCS bowl appearances than Hawaii.
BYU may be arrogant enough to believe that they can make more noise as an independent. They have great facilities, nationwide fan base, and its own network which would seem to be the major components that need to be present, however the problem will be this; does the BCS powers that be look at BYU as a program that will fill seats and bring eyeballs to the television? Certainly, but the challenge is getting to the point where they can contend for a BCS bowl, which is highly doubtful.