It’s finally official: BYU is leaving the Mountain West and joining the ranks of the bold and self-sufficient, going independent in football in 2011.

Good for them.

Contrary to the irrational, emotional responses you might be reading elsewhere on the internet, this is the right move for BYU. This isn’t about BYU being “arrogant” or “delusional.” It’s all business. The Mountain West is overrated, despite the constant drumbeat about how they were on the cusp of BCS automatic qualification. The conference is extremely top-heavy. Sure, Boise State, BYU, and TCU are good teams, and Air Force is decent. The rest of the conference, though, is terrible; and in the formula that the BCS uses to determine who gets invited to the club, that would be enough to keep them from joining the “old Soviet Presidium.” The MWC didn’t need to add Boise State to their top tier; they needed the bottom half of the conference to step up. It’s doubtful that the BCS ever took the conference seriously.

It’s all moot now, as the Mountain West’s chances of getting automatic qualifying status in the BCS are about as good as my chances of winning the next Indy 500. In a way, it doesn’t even matter how good any of the teams are. The BCS isn’t about getting the best teams together. It’s about getting the most popular teams together to create the best possible TV package. Who has the better team, Boise State or Colorado? Obviously, Boise State. So why wouldn’t the Pac 10 want Boise? Because Colorado has a large fanbase that averages 50,000 per game in attendance and delivers the Denver TV market, which will be crucial when the Pac 10 eventually creates its own network. In the Mountain West, there are only two schools that can claim that same kind of popularity: Utah and BYU. Utah, of course, is moving to the Pac 10. That leaves BYU, and they’re simply a different caliber of athletic department than the rest of the Mountain West that Utah is leaving behind. How different? BYU’s average attendance last year was 64,236. The rest of the conference (including Boise State, Fresno State, and Nevada; minus Utah): 27,411. BYU would have been the only program left with the drawing power to add value to the conference’s television package, leaving everyone else riding their financial coattails.

In that sense, the supposed master stroke of MWC commissioner Craig Thompson– luring Fresno State and Nevada out of the WAC– had the opposite of its intended effect. Sure, it effectively killed the WAC and left BYU’s other sports without a place to land, but this was never about BYU basketball or volleyball. This move is all about maximizing the revenue-earning potential of their football program, and adding Fresno State and Nevada just tacked on another pair of leeches to drain BYU of its earning power while offering absolutely nothing in return.

So how much earning power are we talking about? The Mountain West’s television arrangement with Versus, CBS College Sports, and The Mtn pay each school a little less than $1.5 million per year. In 2011 BYU will enter an 8-year agreement with ESPN that could pay as much as $1.2 million per home game, with a guarantee of at least 3 games per year being shown on the network. Those games that are not shown on ESPN can be broadcast on BYU TV, a network that has not only been up and running for years, but is in wider distribution than The Mtn and on a more basic tier on most cable and satellite networks. With its own network, the school would get to keep all of the advertising revenue from these games. Tack on the chance for the university to use its most marketable asset– the football team– to add visibility to the network they use to help inform the public about their Mormon faith, and BYU’s independence makes too much sense not to happen.

Let’s address some of the other talk floating around about BYU’s move.


Some people have apparently forgotten how the Mountain West came to exist in the first place. The original MWC members defected from the WAC a decade ago for a variety of reasons. The bottom line, though, was that they all felt it was in their own best interests to leave, just as BYU does now.

BYU is just arrogant. Without the Mountain West, they’ll become irrelevant.

This is not BYU being arrogant. This is BYU being pragmatic. And frankly, the idea of an alliance with Wyoming and New Mexico being the path to national “relevance” is ridiculous. BYU adds value to the Mountain West, not the other way around.

BYU won’t be able to fill its schedules as an independent.

In the past 5 years alone, BYU has scheduled Boston College, Notre Dame, Arizona, UCLA, Washington, Oklahoma, and Florida State. If those teams will play a Mountain West BYU, they’ll play an independent BYU– especially when ESPN is brokering the deal. In the last two weeks alone BYU has announced future series with Texas and Notre Dame. The remaining WAC schools will still play the Cougars, and despite the emotional rallying cries of scorned fans, most Mountain West schools will continue to schedule them too. It would be bad business not to. BYU will have no problem filling out their schedules.

There goes their shot at the BCS!

By going independent, BYU has the ability to make millions in television revenue every year. Who in their right mind would turn that down just for the off-chance of a BCS payday one year that they’d have to split with 10 other schools? And that’s assuming that staying in the Mountain West would give them a better shot at the BCS to begin with, which is only partially true. By going independent, BYU loses the chance to gain an automatic berth with a conference title and a top 12 finish. But if they finish in the top 12 as an independent, they would still be a viable at-large candidate. Guaranteed money every year is worth far more than maintaining the chance of an improbable one-time payday.

An independent BYU hurts Navy

Having one more independent team competing for bowl arrangements might appear damaging on the surface, but that’s only if existing conference bowl partnerships remain unchanged. With BYU and Utah both leaving the Mountain West, the conference becomes a lot less appealing to bowl games, and will likely lose some of their arrangements. If more bowl games become available as a result, it’ll be a wash for Navy.

So welcome to the animating contest of freedom, BYU.

60 thoughts on “WELCOME TO THE CLUB, BYU

  1. EKWJR

    BYU is the crown jewel athletic program in the Rocky Mountain West.

    Why didn’t the PAC 10 want them, or was it BYU not wanting to go?

  2. EKWJR


    What hot air coming out of Ft Worth!

    TCU is the bunch that dumped Conf USA for the the Mountain West – what in the world was a team from central Texas doing in the MOUNTAIN west? The biggest “mountains” around those parts are the landfills!

    I am shocked they are not running to the Big 12 already. So Fort Worth griping about abandonment looks quite hypocritical.

  3. GoalieLax

    I gathered it was the LDS affiliation that kept them out of the PAC–10

    amazing how many fans and local beat writers are so obtuse that they don’t get the big picture.


    “It’s all moot now, as the Mountain West’s chances of getting automatic qualifying status in the BCS are about as good as my chances of winning the next Indy 500.”

    Don’t you mean “mute”? You are dumb.

  5. Gatogordo

    The correct term Vrasgote is moot… meaning not relevant, or without meaning. Mute means without sound, or the inability to speak, or a tool for changing the sound of a horn as in a metal or plastic cone placed in a coronet or trumpet… Get a dictionary… look it up!

    Sorry the English Nazi in me just could not let it pass… LOL

  6. Brent

    Great article, good points. As a BYU fan I’ve watched and cheered for Navy because of your head coach and because of the respect I have for the service academies. I’ll be looking forward to seeing you guys take down the Fridge this weekend.

  7. Thanks for the thoughtful analysis. One of my earliest BYU football memories is of a BYU-Navy game (I think it was in 1989). My dad took me to the game even though it was raining. After the game I went to shake Cosmo the cougar’s hand and got slapped in the face with his wet tail.

    Great memories. . .

    I hope BYU and Navy play each other often.

  8. Gary

    Great analysis. Someone who actually isn’t afraid to look at facts and report them as they are. I suspect TCU and others will get over this but it certainly isn’t about BYU being arrogant or thinking they are Notre Dame or any other lame reason.

    You hit the nail on the head in every aspect of this story. Well done.

  9. jb

    As a Cougar Fan, I agree with many of your points. Plus, contrary to what the media is saying, no BYU official has claimed BYU to be – or will be – “the Notre Dame of the West.” That was put forward by ESPN’s Andy Katz. In fact BYU’s AD commented that scheduling will be challenging because “obviously, we’re not Notre Dame.”

    Anyway, my biggest fear of going independent in football and joining the WCC is our fans. Over the last ten years or so, we’ve started picking up the habits of our conferencemates. (It’s hard not to react when opposing fans hold up mugshots of a player’s wife.) The WCC teams have *really* classy fans, as do the big time teams we expect to play in football. I hope BYU fans can rise to their level.

    And, as a new resident of the Eastern Seaboard, I hope BYU schedules some home-and-homes with Navy and Army.

  10. Marc Jenks

    I kept hearing Vegas radio state that no one wanted to go to Provo to play a MWC BYU, they will surely not want to go to Provo to play an Ind and irrelevant BYU. They can’t see that the MWC and TV non exposure is what keeps teams from wanting to come. BSU and Haw have suffered the same issues. In a BCS team, they see those scenarios as lose-lose (in the BCS team wins…so what? and if they lose to BYU, BSU, Haw, it’s a loss to a non BCS).

    Bravo for pointing out the likelihood that more teams are going to want to schedule BYU.

  11. GoalieLax

    apparently the Vegas radio station forgets that Washington, Florida State, UCLA, Arizona, Boston College, USC, Notre Dame, Georgia Tech, and Stanford have all traveled to Provo in the last 8 years

  12. Martin

    A big heartfelt THANK YOU to the author and commentators for welcoming BYU to the fold of college football independents. One thing I will really miss about the MWC is getting to play Air Force every year and I hope they can still schedule the Falcons in the future. And I REALLY hope BYU will be able to arrange regular match-ups with Army and Navy as well. Mormons are some of the most patriotic people you will find so those games would be HUGE draws! ESPN would be all over them too! Nationwide ratings for those games would be through the roof!
    Your analysis of BYU’s motivations for going independent were all spot on. It had nothing to do with the level of competition in the MWC, and everything to do with the lack of exposure. Due to its church affiliation BYU has a nationwide fanbase with Mormons present in every state. But the MWC TV network, called the Mtn, was only available in a handful of western states and Comcast, who owned the Mtn, refused to allow BYU to do any kind of rebroadcasting of athletic events on BYUtv which is available in over 60 million homes on basic cable/satellite packages. They would not even let them broadcast events that they did not want to broadcast themselves! ESPN has told BYU they can rebroadcast all sporting events as much as they want, and they will pay BYU 4-5x as much for the live broadcast rights as they were getting from the MWC TV contract. And of course, ESPN is available everywhere, so as you correctly surmised, it was a “No Brainer” for BYU to bail the MWC and go it alone. We know we are not Notre Dame. The AD of BYU has said this repeatedly. But we are peculiar and unique, and for these reasons I think independence makes a lot of sense for BYU, especially when they can continue to play all their other sports in a league that is comprised entirely of similar private, faith-based universities.

  13. Mike

    Cougar fan here… what an outstanding article! You really hit all the points perfectly for why BYU went independent. This was all about exposure, something that the horrible MWC TV deal could not provide. Now we move on to play on ESPN which will offer far better exposure and far better revenue!

    BYU can pull this off because like Army, Navy and Notre Dame, the Cougars are a unique private institution that has a large fan base that is spread out all over the country. (There are approximately 6 million Mormons in the Unites States (14 million worldwide) and a healthy percentage of this large body are Cougar fans. ESPN knows this, and this large fan base, combined with the Cougars brand-name recognition due to a long-term sustained tradition of excellence, is why they were so interested in BYU.

    BYU subsidized the smaller schools of the WAC/MWC for far too long. The likes of Wyoming, New Mexico, Colorado State, etc road the finacial coattails of BYU for years and years and it was time for BYU to venture out on it’s own!

    Thank you again for such a terrific, 100% spot on article!

  14. B Wilson

    Hello Group,
    A great article that I enjoyed reading very much. I too look forward to BYU joining the independent ranks. They will be keeping wonderful company.

  15. Drew

    Great article! You manage to understand a lot of points that the major media outlets just don’t grasp. I completely agree with you, and feel like you are one of the few who really ‘gets it.’ If this is a taste of the Navy fanbase, then count me excited to start playing Navy and our other independent confrères as soon as possible.

  16. OBuck

    This is the BEST analysis of any I have read on the BYU situation, including the BYU sports websites. Very intelligent and right on the money. Thank you!

  17. TB

    Excellent. I know BYU fans are far from perfect, but… for me, I have grown tired of the hate, vitriol, etc from places like Wyoming, Las Vegas, and New Mexico. These school hate BYU and what its attempted mission so much that they do and say nasty things that are beyond intense sports rivalries. Yet, they are happy to cash the checks that they have been getting for the past several years when BYU fills their stadium, receives a bowl check, or grows the TV audience.

  18. Steve-O

    I fell for the “mute” thing, too. Though I figured something was up by the time I got to “write” and “porpoises”.

    Great post. The detractors of this move seem overly emotional. Even some of my fellow Cougar boosters misunderstand this move. Fans had grown accustomed to the MWC. But it’s just another mid-major. While not an elite program, BYU was the anchor of the league. That’s not a good thing. The anchor has no hope of ever rising up & moving on.

    Though they have a very different mission, Navy is better model for BYU than Notre Dame. Both have a geographically widespread (but relatively small) following. Both are above-average in sports. Both top the annual list of “most-sober” schools.

    That last point is important. Some would have you believe we Mormons are a bunch of Old-Earth fundies. Wrong. There are still some wonderful PAC schools in California. I attended one. But Arizona, Oregon, Utah, Colorado & Wazzu? High School with cigarettes.

    BYU would be wise to follow Navy’s excellent academic model. Not that they accomplished this by choosing football independence. It can’t hurt, though.

  19. As a blue blood cougar fan I cant Wait to play the other service school teams. If their anything like Air force ( respectful, committed, clean, and patriotic ) then the schedual just got 10 X better. I am sick of Wyoming and their urine filled water balloons (and mouths).

    I can’t wait to have army and navy come to Lavelle Edwards Stadium. You will find 65,000 fans who love their country as much as they love their cougars. God bless our troups.

  20. Joel

    I enjoyed the analysis! I’m a huge BYU fan living in Austin, TX and I can’t wait for the Cougars to come here next year. The more I learn about why BYU went independent, the more I like it. Go Cougs!

  21. Bill_in_Albuquerque

    Stuart Clements wrote, in part, “God bless our troups.” Spelling error? Did you mean to say, “God bless our toupees?”

  22. Okie BYU

    THanks for this article, it is going to be excited to play with folks who truly understand how scheduling works. Many have questioned BYU not being invited to the Pac 10, everyone should know it was because of the LDS regilion. The major problem the Pac 10 will have is when both BYU and Utah play at the same time, which team do you think will have the greatest following!! That’s right BYU. Utah benefited more by being with BYU ,as did the other MWC schools, than BYU did being with them.

    BYU will always be able to schedule better teams. If we maintane our winning ways, then it’s good for the ratings if the majors beat us and if we are losers then it gives them a “cupcake” game. Either way BYU wins. Plus who is going to turn down packed staduims either at home or at Provo when you play the Y with it’s 64,000 plus fans. Not to mention the international TV market that the BYU network offers. Great Move for BYU. Thanks for again for the article.

  23. BYU and Friends Fan

    “GoalieLax, on September 3, 2010 at 7:00 am Said:
    15iRate This

    it’s a “moo” point – like a cow’s opinion, it doesn’t matter”

    AH ha ha ha Had to laugh cause I know what you’re quoting.

    Great article on this whole BYU independent thing. I’m excited to see the greater coverage. :)

  24. Ben

    That is the best analysis of why BYU should go independent that I have heard. As a cougar fan, I hope we get the opportunity to play an organization as classy as Navy that also has the guts to go into business for themselves. Go BYU, go Navy!

  25. Chad

    Great analysis of the BYU move. As an Air Force officer and BYU grad I’m excited for the potential for games with Army, Navy, and Air Force every year.

    I for one am looking forward to seeing my Cougars on ESPN again. BYUtv is an invaluable bonus to us Mormons stationed outside Utah.

  26. byufan78

    As a BYU fan I too look forward to hopefully having football games against Army and Navy (and hope to keep Air Force as a opponent as well). Having never seen Army or Navy live, I have to wonder: do Army and Navy have a similar pregame display of their military force? I absolutely love the flyovers that the Air Force Academy does prior to their games. If BYU were to get Army and Navy to come to LaVell Edwards Stadium, could we get a M1A2 Abrams tank drive-through by Army and an LCAC hovercraft drive-through by the Navy? That would be great!-)

    GO COUGS!!!

  27. Mark

    Wow. This is absolutely a terrific analysis. Like many other folks that have posted here, I’m pleased to see such intelligent commentary. It’s in stark contrast to many of the national commentators that really haven’t got a clue.

    I’m a BYU grad, but was in the Air Force for more than 11 years and I’ve always had a warm spot in my heart for all the service academies. I watch their games and cheer them on. Hopefully, BYU will be able to add Navy and Army to the schedule on a regular basis. Those would be some of my favorite games because I would feel great cheering for both teams.

  28. Amazing article. A fellow once said, knowing the truth with set you free…..

    Knowing an appreciating the extent of BYU’s declaration of independence and what it will achieve for the football program , the lds church and the school puts a smile on many faces here in Provo….I love the fact that the Mtn. West had been left in the dust. I love the fact that the bottom feeders of the MWC will continue to have empty stadiums. Many of them have suggested that they don’t have an interest in playing the Cougars. Ohhhhh well….have a great time playing the same brand of boring, over-rated college football while BYU heads into future with hope and a destiny beyond a MWC that has no future…

    Go Cougars….beat the Huskies!!!

  29. MattPattAZ

    As a BYU alum and Maryland native, you echo everything I’ve been saying. The Wyomings, New Mexicos, etc. have been riding the coattails of BYU for years. Time for them to step up. Best thing that could’ve ever happened to BYU. And all those who said they were “delusional” or were trying to be like Notre Dame? Please! Uh, the deals with Texas, Notre Dame and ESPN? The Irish have played BYU in the past and didn’t think twice to start with six games right off the bat. I actually hope they will incorporate Navy, Army and the AFA in their annual schedules. Great article!

  30. Parker West

    Terrific read
    When you take away the jilted lover persona we have been plastered with, one would have to be blind not to see how independence helps BYU meet it”s goals. I live in the Phoenix area, I’m a crazed BYU fan since age 5, yet I haven’t seen a televised home game in more than 4 years. That’s why the new package with ESPN was needed. I would love to see BYU play in Annapolis and have Navy come out west. You have a great coach in Ken N. (I couldn’t spell it for all the money on earth) making the game a classic pass vs run.

  31. Joe

    The only thing you forgot to mention was the recruiting benefit BYU will see in having better exposure outside of the MWC. Most of our high school athletes get their sporting news from ESPN and I am sure this sways their opinions about the teams/schools they would like to play for. Out of state recruits want their families to be able to see them play and if they cannot afford to travel, ESPN is the best back-up.

  32. gonavy81

    @ DotBone89, on September 3, 2010 at 5:34 pm Said:
    I don’t know about the “most-sober” thing. ;-)

    Well, probably on a Sun night – Thurs night basis, eh?

  33. ogmson

    Brilliant and so well done. You get an A+ for well done journalism.

    Not only did you hit every point that matters, you were almost perfect on your facts. Those that you weren’t perfect on are inconsequential.

    BYU made a great move and in the end, will prove to be the better move than what the Utes made in going to the PAC.

    Still funny to me how most people applauded the Utes for their jump from the Conference, but the jump BYU made, which is more profitable and ultimately better, received criticism…..

    Go figure

  34. Eric

    Like others who have posted, I’m a BYU grad and fervent Cougar fan. Thanks for an outstanding analysis of BYU’s situation. Football independence will open doors and provide opportunities which we can’t even fathom now. Having ESPN as an ally will be a huge help to BYU for scheduling and bowl tie-ins. I, too, love the service academies – I’m travelling from northern Calif to Colo Springs next week to see BYU play at AFA, and I can’t wait. I hope all three show up on our schedule regularly. Having our other sports in a league that understands AND RESPECTS a faith-based perspective will also be an improvement. These changes are exactly the right steps at exactly the right time.

  35. BlueHusky

    I attended the BYU Navy game in Annapolis when Detmer was QB for BYU. What a fun game, and Annapolis is beautiful. We used to go there for weekends when we lived in DC. I was a beltway bandit with Navy contracts, so spent a lot of time in the Pentagon and Mechanicsburg. I gained huge respect for our military, which is the finest in the world.

    I’m ecstatic about the possibility of scheduling Navy and even … well, Army … as often as possible. What fun!

    Thanks for the welcome and the great article.

  36. swo82

    To BYUfan78,

    Navy has much better fly-bys than Air Force. All you have with them are airplanes. With Navy, you have the full package Navy and Marine Corps airplanes, helicopters, that V-22 Osprey hybrid, and SEAL team para teams.

    I was there as a mid for the 1978 Navy BYU game. You all are a class act all the way. Welcom to independents.

  37. UT MTN MAN

    Terrific article! I echo what other BYU fans have said: I hope the Cougars play Navy, Army, and Air Force every year in football. And the basketball team will certainly enjoy the Christian schools of the West Coast Conference much more than the foul-mouthed anti-Mormon bigots at some Mountain West schools. Good move, BYU.

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