BYU’s Move to Independence Revisited

Okay, we are five weeks into this college football season and the talk in many Mountain West Conference locales has revolved around slamming BYU as they make their final run through the conference before they go independent. There have been talking heads on the Mtn. who have taken the opportunity to slam BYU for going independent and point to the Cougars 1-4 record and recent lambasting at the hand of Utah St. and see this as a reason why it is a bad idea. “See look BYU should have stayed in the MWC, it can only get worse from here.”

BYU declared its independence and other programs in the west are angry. Count me as one of those people who initially heard that BYU was going independent and thought, “why”? I was one of those people who said BYU has not accomplished anything to warrant leaving the MWC in fact I even believed that this move was about gaining access to the BCS, and thought that this does not give you easier access to the BCS it actually makes things more difficult. I then decided to read, ask and learn.

I read Sloppy Joe’s post, which for me as a guy who attended a WAC school but lives in a market dominated by an MWC school, gave me a different perspective on the move by BYU. The points made by “SJ “made the BYU move seem like a no brainer and was something that made sense economically, so in my mind the BYU’s move makes sense. Fans of MWC programs or just fans who are “anti-Byu” who believe that because the Blue crew is 1-4 means that it was a bad idea to go independent, not so fast. This is a long term move, not a move made for this year or even the next, it is a move that is long term. BYU is taking its most marketable program and is maximizing its ability to earn. If you were selling your car would you sell it to the highest bidder or the lowest bidder? As an example Utah and TCU have had much more national notoriety and bowl success the last few years than Minnesota or Washington St. but WSU and Minnesota have more money pouring into their coffers from television contracts, bowl appearances, etc. than TCU and Utah. It seems unfair but it is the system.

My personal allegiances aside, BYU made the best move for BYU, and at the end of the day no MWC fan base should be upset, if any other program could leave and make its own way or could move to a better conference they would be gone. Irony is the people who care about BYU’s move are bitter fans in the MWC. The fans of the seven remaining (Utah is leaving, Boise St., Nevada and Fresno St will be entering) MWC programs are upset because they will not have the BCS formula number from BYU the MWC needs to become an AQ conference as well as the huge walk up following that BYU enjoys for away games (which generates revenue) when they play the blue. The programs that are crying the loudest are the programs that have done the least to bolster the conference’s profile; with either on the field performance, fan attendance or a combination of both. Those MWC programs which are deficient in those categories do not deserve to be BCS conference members. If you are a state university, or supposed to be the biggest university in your state you should not have games where the coach could throw a rock into the stands and be reasonably sure he will not have a lawsuit Monday morning from a fan whom the rock struck. Yes, there is a component of performance but the fan bases need to step up and support their teams.

At its core, BYU has performance on the field, but most importantly its consistent fan support at home, on the road and bowl games which allowed them to even entertain the idea of being an independent. BYU is currently 1-4, and I am sure that Lavell Edwards Stadium will be packed for the next home game. With that type of fan loyalty it is no wonder ESPN inked the “Y” the amount to money that it did. Bottom line MWC fan don’t weep for BYU or even say I told you so when looking at the 1-4 record, BYU had 8 to 10 million reasons to make this move and leave the MWC in the dust.