Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Conference Chaos : BYU's 5 Options

By John Ahlander, 

In the ever chaotic world of college football, the last few weeks almost seem normal.  There are more teams jumping from one conference to the next and presidents saying "It's a great day for our university" -- all while leaving tradition, geography and rivalries in the dust.

Where does this leave BYU?  In short, the same place it was a few days ago.  However, there are some new options it could consider.

Two weeks ago, the BCS commissioners and Presidential Oversight Committee announced that there will be six bowls rotating through the upcoming college football playoff system.  The group also announced that there would be one automatic bid for the highest-rated champion from the "Group of Five" conferences (Big East, Conference USA, Mountain West, Sun Belt and Mid-American) -- also known as the have-nots.  This bid will accompany the automatic bids for the SEC, ACC, Big 12, Big 10 and Pac-12.

The Big East got demoted from a BCS conference to a non-BCS conference.  If you are Boise State, you may be kicking yourself right now.  The Mountain West conference has the exact same access now as the Big East.  Instead of going undefeated each year in the MWC, with regional opponents and rivals, and having a great shot at the one "Group of Five" automatic bid, they are now part of a mess of a conference, remaking itself with Conference USA teams.

BYU is only guaranteed a spot if they are in the top 4.  To get an "at-large" bid, they'd most likely have to be in the top 10.  Although the college football post-season is changing, for BYU, it's pretty much the same.  Be undefeated and in the top 10.

Here are BYU's five options today:

1.  Stay Independent

Pros:  No change.  In the melee of conference realignment, BYU actually is above the fray.  No lawsuits, no uncertainty, no conference partners bolting for a better place.  BYU has a very nice contract with ESPN, great exposure, excellent future schedules, and all the control.

Cons: No guaranteed access to a BCS (or future name) bowl.  No conference championship to play for.  Difficult November scheduling.

BYU should choose this option, if...the Big 12 doesn't invite.

2.  Join the Big East

Pros: Potential access to BCS (or future name) bowl.  Conference championship to play for.  November scheduling set. Possibly more revenue (to be determined).

Cons: Conference is crumbling as we speak.  It is now Conference USA + Boise and San Diego State.

BYU should choose this option, if...heck freezes over (edited for BYU standards).  OK, actually, if the Big East gave BYU complete rights to its home football games (i.e. retain ESPN contract), a 7 game conference schedule (to retain 5 non-conference games), and some home-and-home basketball non-conference scheduling, then it could be worth considering.

3.  Re-join the Mountain West

Pros: Potential access to BCS (or future name) bowl.  Conference championship to play for.  November scheduling fixed. Regional games.  This is the easiest path to a BCS (or future name) bowl.  BYU just needs to win the MWC and be ranked higher than the Big East/CUSA champion.

Cons: It would appear as if BYU regretted it's independence decision and came crawling back.  That wouldn't be true, as the landscape has changed, but it would appear that way.  Mountain West has now added more schools, which are weaker than the previous teams it lost.  It is basically the old WAC again.

BYU should choose this option, if...all of the following conditions are met:  1.  Boise State and San Diego St. return.  2.  BYU has complete rights to its home football games (i.e. retain ESPN contract).  3.  A 7-8 game conference schedule (to retain 4-5 non-conference games).  4.  Some home-and-home basketball non-conference scheduling.

4.  Beg the Big 12

Pros:  Big 12 is a premier conference, with incredible competition, bounteous revenues and full access to BCS (or new name)/playoff.  

Cons:  It's never good to beg, and the Big 12 seems content to stay at 10 teams.  

BYU should choose this option, if...the sun rises tomorrow.  This is really the only good conference option for BYU.  Problem is, the Big 12 doesn't want BYU (or any other team right now).  BYU should call the Big 12 and say: "When you are ready, we are ready".

5.  Form a new conference

Pros:  Dictate own terms.  Retain ESPN contract and BYUtv rights.  Can pick conference partners.

Cons:  May not be able to get spot in new BCS bowl/playoff format.  

BYU should choose this option, if...Boise State, San Diego St., SMU and Houston all join with them, BYU can retain ESPN contract (or new conference has equivalent ESPN contract), and BCS bowls (or new name) include this new conference in the "Group of 5".

In summary, what does this all mean for BYU football?  It's still on the outside looking in. The more things change, the more they stay the same for BYU.

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