BYU embracing independence, for now

AUSTIN, Texas -- Ty Detmer wants to beat them.

And then maybe even join them.

It is a twist on the adage, but in this day and age when up is down in college football, everything is twisted. Which brings us to the latest entanglement, BYU and Texas on Saturday night in Austin.

Detmer lives and coaches in the shadow of the University of Texas, which could be on the verge of going to another conference or even going independent. Detmer's alma mater, BYU, is an independent and could well be searching for a conference.

"I think ultimately BYU will entertain the Big 12," said Detmer, now a coach at Austin's St. Andrew's Episcopal. "It gets your basketball and baseball program more exposure that way as well.

"Most teams want to be in a conference because it does give you that security to schedule games. I know BYU is probably having trouble scheduling later season games against better opponents because everybody is in conference play, and no one wants to all of a sudden play a tough team late in the year."

Whether there will be a Big 12 in the future is up to the lawyers to figure out. As for being an independent, BYU and Notre Dame have set the blueprint. Depending on how the conference realignments work out, Texas might unroll that blueprint and take a look. In BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall' assessment, things are looking pretty good.

"This move to independence was well thought out. I believe we're aligned and positioned where we belong," Mendenhall said. "With a school that has such a unique purpose, [aligned] with other [independent] schools that have unique purposes outside of just schooling and football … I like the exposure we now have."

The problem for a school like BYU comes when it might not have enough exposure to turn the heads of those who decide which teams play in the Bowl Championship Series.

"The one thing that's lacking [is] that we're going to have to continue to earn our way into the BCS," Mendenhall said. "Right now, bluntly, we have to go undefeated, probably twice in a very short amount of time, to have a shot at the national title. So there's kind of a Catch-22.

"But for now, and maybe for the relative long-term, I'm really, really comfortable with this independent role. If I can help our team play at the highest level, then maybe that inclusion will come just through the number of games we win, in terms of access to the national championship."

For Texas, inclusion in the BCS is not as high a hurdle. Additionally, while BYU does have a TV deal with ESPN, it is not as far-reaching as Texas' Longhorn Network. So Texas has the television coverage as well.

"When you consider that in the world of who are the haves and have-nots in college football, in terms of the glitter and the budget, etc. you probably think of Texas and Oregon," Mendenhall said.

Texas may have the glitter and budget, but it might be a have-not in terms of a conference in the near future.

Then again, Texas might just wind up with BYU in its conference.

"The allure of a BCS automatic qualifying conference might be too much to pass up if the Big 12 comes calling," Detmer said.

Carter Strickland covers University of Texas sports and recruiting for HornsNation.

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