Ok, I went to BYU, so just throwing that out there to start. I worked 2 years at the school paper in advertising and BYU athletics was my client. I have seen football practices, met the marketing directors and met Tom Holmoe, the Athletic Director. This is coming from someone who actually understands a thing or two about BYU, its football program, and the Church that owns it. I’ve been watching this story closely to see how it all turns out as I believe it will significantly affect the college football landscape. I have read tons of stories and lots of comments on those stories. Some people just don’t get it. So for you people who say stupid things like “BYU is jealous of Utah so they are leaving the MWC,” well, this is for you.
Here is the first and most important point to keep in mind about all of this: BYU has been planning its move to independence for a long time. This is not a new development. It has been in the works. Don’t think they started some kind of rumor just to get attention or because they are jealous of Utah or anyone. BYU has been waiting for the right moment to move to independence, and after a summer like this, its no surprise they felt that moment was now.
The second and almost equally as important point is this: BYU athletics has been mandated to move to financial independence from the LDS church. By that I mean that all athletics programs are to be self-sustaining, either through their own revenues or through donations, which they receive plenty of. Don’t get me wrong, the Church has billions of dollars and could easily afford to do anything they wanted for football at BYU. But the Church strongly teaches self reliance, and they want athletics as a whole to practice it. This is mostly because the football team got a couple of nice, new, huge buildings not too long ago. Guess who paid for them? Not BYU athletics. Originally they had donations and everything lined up for their new indoor practice facility and administrative/workout building. But some things fell through and costs got a little high as I recall. So the athletic department got bailed out by all the other departments on campus. BYU athletics is still thanking the Harmon Building.
Because of this, you could say they are probably on a short leash. There is enormous pressure to not require any money from the Church to sustain BYU’s sports. So money is an actual issue here. The Mountain pays nothing. They make $1.5 million from that pathetic TV contract. You think it is getting better with the loss of Utah and addition of Boise State, Nevada and Fresno State? Think again, that revenue is now getting divided two more ways. It is a lousy channel with lousy revenues. On the other hand, BYU-TV is an already international channel in millions of households. BYU could theoretically broadcast every one of their games on their own with their new fancy building, and all in HD too. Plus ESPN wants to pick up some of their bigger games as well. In the MWC there aren’t any big games outside of Boise State and TCU each year. As an independent, BYU will schedule in state rivals Utah and Utah State, and then have 10 other games to schedule anyone they want. Notre Dame, Texas, Oregon…they will get some big names for sure, and ESPN will want to pay them well to broadcast those games.
Ok, so hopefully we all realize now that BYU has wanted to be independent for a while and wants to do so in order to increase their revenues. So what about the timing?
Simple. Who is BYU’s biggest rival in every way? Utah. With the Utes in the Pac-12, they will get more exposure and more money. How do you expect BYU to keep up in recruiting with Utah if they get a fraction of the exposure and make a fraction of the money? Simple, they don’t keep up. If BYU wants to win the recruiting battle with Utah, they simply have to get more national exposure and make more money, or it will never happen. So as far as timing goes, BYU has to make the move to independence to keep up with Utah out of pure necessity.
One thing people are saying that is so ignorant is that BYU can’t make a decent schedule. So untrue. BYU already has Boise State and Texas lined up in coming years. They got Florida State and Washington now. They played USC and Notre Dame just a few years ago. Obviously BYU has no trouble scheduling. Their only immediate problem would be 2011 and 2012, as most teams have probably locked up their schedules by now. They have 4 or so guaranteed games already, but that’s 8 more games to schedule. They probably wouldn’t have a hard time filling them with MWC and WAC teams as their schedules are totally wacky right now. So who would they schedule in the long run? Quite simply, whoever they wanted. And that wouldn’t be a short list.
You have Utah and Utah State each year, that’s for sure. There’s no question they won’t be able to get Notre Dame year in and year out. Navy is another that would work. That’s 4 regulars each season. Now, let’s get a big matchup or two. All BYU has to do is schedule another Pac-12 team besides Utah for one. Then they schedule a Big XII team for the other. Right now that would be Texas, and since the Longhorns may make the move to independence themselves, that could be a great rivalry. Now they need some filler. WAC and MWC teams can make that up. You know UNLV is BYU’s home away from home, so they will always play. Nevada, Colorado State, Wyoming and others are all pretty close and offer pretty easy wins each year. Now plug in an FCS team and with rivals, big games and fillers you have a schedule. They certainly will never struggle in this department.
How about the BCS? Those who think this move has anything to do with the BCS are idiots. BYU and everyone else knows that to get into the BCS all you have to do is go undefeated, pure and simple. They don’t have any better chance of going undefeated in the MWC as they do as independents. There chances haven’t changed at all. This clearly has nothing to do with the BCS and everything to do with what I’ve mentioned above.
The real question is, what happens if the announcement comes by September 1? First, Craig Thompson will react, since that’s all he can do is react rather than make the first move. His reaction will be to go after UTEP and/or Houston and Tulsa. TCU won’t like the Texas competition one bit. TCU is a top caliber program with stadium renovations on the way. The Big XII will never invite them because the Texas schools will have none of it. But the SEC will. It’s a great first step into Texas by grabbing a great program. It makes all the sense in the world. Texas A&M, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State would likely follow as Texas moves to independence and the rest scramble for whatever conference they can. It’s going to be interesting, but lets not be dumb about this and think BYU is moving to independence because they think they have a better shot at the BCS or something.