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"I'm not sure how it could stop now unless BYU gets nervous," one source with knowledge of the situation said.The Cougars have been exploring the possibility since in-state rival Utah left the Mountain West for the Pac-10 earlier this summer. BYU never received an invitation from the Big 12 to replace Colorado, as the Big 12 decided to stay at 10 members after losing the Buffaloes to the Pac-10 and Nebraska to the Big Ten. According to sources, BYU would need approval from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, which owns the school, to make the change. The Salt Lake Tribune reported Wednesday afternoon that approval will be sought Wednesday or Thursday, and that a news conference had been scheduled for early next week. That timetable may be moved up because of the reports coming out, the Tribune reported. In response to the reports BYU released a statement saying: "We are aware of the many media reports and questions circulating about BYU's conference alignment. As Director of Athletics Tom Holmoe explained recently, BYU has been reviewing, and will continue to explore, every option to advance its athletic program. At this point, BYU has no further comment." In an effort to keep BYU in the Mountain West -- a necessity to keep alive its pursuit of an automatic qualifying spot in the BCS -- the conference is considering all avenues, one source told ESPN's Joe Schad Wednesday. This includes possible concessions to BYU on television rights, much the same way the Big 12 made concessions to Texas, and exploring all of its own television partner options. BYU's possible move to independent status, sources said Wednesday, is not contingent upon the school getting a seat at the BCS table like football independent Notre Dame. Furthermore, BYU is aware that it might not be afforded the same status as Notre Dame in the BCS. BCS executive director Bill Hancock told Schad Wednesday that he has spoken with BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe. BYU is interested to see if BCS presidents and chancellors would consider provisions to allow it automatic qualifying access. Hancock said in an e-mail to ESPN.com that the BCS-member schools would "thoughtfully consider any request that comes in. Every school is eligible to be considered by a bowl for at-large selection if it is ranked in the top 14."
|BYU is closing in on a decision to leave the Mountain West and become a football independent.|
While BYU considers leaving the Mountain West, WAC members Fresno State and Nevada were approached by a Mountain West representative Tuesday about an invitation to the league, according to a source.A source told Schad that Houston and UTEP also have been studied as possible additions to the MWC. However, if a WAC school decides to go to the MWC, it will come at the expense of a costly buyout. Once Boise State left, the remaining WAC members -- Fresno State, Louisiana Tech, New Mexico State, San Jose State, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada and Utah State -- signed a $5 million buyout agreement that would be assessed to any member that left the conference within the next five years. The schools took that move to keep other members from following the Broncos to the Mountain West.
BYU, which would like to become the Notre Dame of the West, is seeking a separate television agreement for its football program. Notre Dame currently has a football deal with NBC. According to independent multiple sources, BYU is in discussion with ESPN for its football rights. ESPN already has an agreement with the WAC to televise football and basketball. BYU has its own national television network, BYU-TV, which is available on major satellite networks. BYU-TV is going to HD, and with the wide reach of the Mormon church, the Cougars could build national appeal, as Catholic-based Notre Dame has. WAC commissioner Karl Benson said earlier this summer that the league "would give consideration to" taking back BYU in all other sports, were the Cougars to go independent for football. Benson declined to comment on this story. BYU previously has considered going independent. But at that time, the option of being a football independent came with being independent in all other sports, making scheduling much more difficult. In this case, BYU's other sports would be protected by membership in the WAC. Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com. ESPN college football reporter Joe Schad contributed to this report.