The worst kept secret in college football is out -- BYU is going independent in football for the 2011-12 season. After a deal to join the WAC for its other sports fell apart, BYU has decided to join up with the West Coast Conference.
Quick thoughts on the move, ahead of the official press conference scheduled for Wednesday:
BYU clearly wanted to establish itself as an independent power in the West, hoping to control its football television rights and keep the money for itself. BYU already has its own TV network, BYUtv, but all its football games were a part of the Mountain West television contract. That was a huge sticking point when it came down to deciding whether to go independent or stay with the Mountain West.
Part of the beauty of the WAC affiliation was getting four to six games against conference opponents in football. Now as a member of the WCC, it is going to be harder to fill out a 12-game schedule. Yes, BYU will have help in doing that, but it is going to need major, major help in order to position itself as a player for a BCS berth.
Speaking of the BCS, BYU knows it is not guaranteed to get the special status Notre Dame gets when it comes to those bowl berths. The BCS Board of Directors is set to meet next month to discuss what to do about BYU. This move does not seem to be one that will position the Cougars to make a consistent run as a football power. Non-AQ teams have a hard enough time as it is getting into the BCS. Wonder how hard it will be as an independent. Notre Dame can go out and schedule anybody it wants. It remains to be seen whether BYU can do the same, even with help.
A big question looming -- how much more money does BYU stand to get as an independent than as a member of the Mountain West? As part of the conference, BYU received a chunk of the money the league got when TCU and Utah made it into those BCS games. It will lose out on all of that. But whatever TV deal it secures could amount to much more.
The WAC has been in serious scramble mode since the deal to potentially get BYU in its grasp imploded when Fresno State and Nevada decided to bolt for the Mountain West. The survival of the league remains shaky, though commissioner Karl Benson is set on trying to bring other programs into the fold -- perhaps FCS schools ready to make the jump into FBS.
With BYU leaving, the Mountain West will become a 10-team league. Is that satisfactory, or does the league try to expand to 12 and get a conference championship game? The league has already been in talks with Conference USA about perhaps having a joint conference championship game with the winner getting a BCS berth. But the BCS has not weighed in on whether they would go for that plan.
There are now four independent teams in college football. Depending on the money BYU is going to get and keep for itself, is independence the wave of the future?