Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Still Not Done with Conference Shenanigans: Updated!

Here's a new one: after a summer filled with teams hopping to more established conferences and persistent rumors of a future filled with sixteen-team superconferences, one school is apparently deciding to turn back the clock and go independent.

BYU wants to set itself up as Notre Dame West*. It will just schedule whomever it wants in football and affiliate itself with the WAC (which hasn't replaced Boise State yet) in all its other sports. This plan is, I think, diabolically clever.

Yes, it seems a little stupid on first glance. BYU is no Notre Dame, national-relevance-wise. And who goes from being affiliated with a conference to independence these days? But then you look a little closer.

BYU just lost its rival in the MWC, Utah, to the Pac-10-soon-to-be-12. This wasn't just bad for BYU in a rivalry sense; it was bad for the MWC as a whole. Remember, they had just added Boise State and, when the Big 12 looked about to collapse, may have been in line to collect the Kansas, etc. schools. The MWC (which had also just had a very successful collective season versus BCS-conference opponents--so successful that there was talk of it getting its own automatic BCS bid) looked like it was going places. But then the Big 12 didn't collapse, the Pac-10 had to look somewhere else for a twelfth school to complement Colorado, and Utah got poached. Even with the addition of Boise State, the MWC was now in a much weaker position. So BYU, one of its two strongest remaining programs, doesn't have that much to lose by leaving.

Of course, there wouldn't be conference realignment without that all-powerful force, TV money. BYU, despite their non-scoffable legacy of football success, isn't Notre Dame, but it's got commonalities. Thanks to its affiliation with the Mormon church, BYU already has its own TV network and a built-in, (somewhat) geographically dispersed fanbase. If anybody can pull this off, it might as well be BYU.

Good for them, I suppose. But I can't help but feel sorry for the MWC. Those poor kids really looked like they were on the verge of greatness (or at least pretty-goodness), but it's all been steeply downhill since their Boise State coup. Sorry, guys.

*I did, by the way, think of that phrase before I read a similar one in the linked article. Just so you know.

UPDATE: Now the MWC is all, "So, WAC, you think you can steal from us after we stole from you?! We'll steal from you more!" and has invited Nevada and Fresno State to join them. However, WAC members agreed to a $5 million penalty for leaving the conference after Boise State left the conference, and that may be more than either school can afford. Upping the ante: if the MWC can't pull this off, Boise State might not join them after all, because they're no longer nearly as appealing. Also, depending on how other teams shake out, the MWC's San Diego State and UNLV are pondering moving to the WAC as well.

This is turning into some sort of bizarre conference death match. I love it.


  1. I guess Utah State was the 1st WAC school to get a MWC invite, but they declined because they thought there was some WAC solidarity in place, but then NV and FSU got invites and accepted them, like the ingrates that they are. But now the WAC is going to collapse, so USU might go MWC after all.

  2. Is the WAC collapsing, or are they just adding even-less-prestigious teams? Or are those the same thing?

    It's hard not to feel sorry for the WAC, since they didn't put the wheels in motion, and they didn't stand to gain that much by BYU sort-of joining them. But I still can't fault the MWC for going for the throat.