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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  1. Nice article but the talk of BCS invitations is overrated. We have never been invited even in 1996 which changed the rules to allow Utah in for 04 and 08. The bottom line is to win. That requires benching injured qb's or others that can not give their all in any game. With the schedule we have to have the record it takes to be the best of the 5 "other" conferences will be good enough to qualify alone.Let's not let the "opportunity" of being BCS qualified mess up the rest of the year and have to play teams that are 2000 miles away that are not name programs Holmoe has been able to schedule. If scheduling dries up that changes everything but as it has been said it is better to have a friend in the court room than the courtyard. We have the best "big brother" anyone could have in ESPN. They have gotten games when we couldn't and been the best partner we could have and that includes all lesser conferences.

    1. BYU is fine right now. When all conferences move to 16 teams, there are still 6 spots in the Big 12 and 4 in the PAC12. The PAC12 has very few options left in the west. If they try to poach from the Big 12 again, that leaves even more room in the Big12. BYU knows they are perfectly positioned for either conference if and when they decide to expand. BYU doesn't need to panic. The conferences are doing that all on their own.

    2. The Pac12 doesn't even have the option to poach from the BigXII anymore. They have rules in place now in the B12 that if you leave, you surrender your tv rights. So no school will do it, and no other conference wants a team that doesn't have those rights. So the B12 is solid.

      That said, I agree that the Pac12 doesn't have options based on geography, but as we've seen in about every other major conference (WV to B12, Maryland to B1G, the Big East), they might just ignore that part of it. It would definitely be easier to add BYU than to go try to poach from the B1G or SEC or ACC, but their options for expansion are limited. I don't even know who they would bring on to pair with BYU if an invite did come? Boise State? UNLV? SDSU? Fresno State? None are very attractive to them IMO so I wouldn't be surprised if they stayed at 12, even with everyone else expanding.

      The B12 should go up at least 2 more, probably 4, but they could be looking east to find someone to pair up with WV. The ACC is still susceptible to being raided. I just hope that FSU, Clemson, VT, and the rest stay put. I read that the B12 and the SEC have a "gentleman's agreement" not to expand into each others states that they came to when they signed on together with the Sugar Bowl (I think). Obviously, that helps BYU so the B12 should stay out of the ACC..

  2. I actually agree with two options. Beg the Big12, which in my book should be the first option that is pursued by BYU, the other is to form a new conference. Perhaps a conference that gives all teams the ability to negotiate their own tv rights. This might attract bigger named schools. Schools like USC, Texas, Oklahoma, etc can get more on their own than they can from their current conferences. Even though those same conferences are paying in the 10s of millions now. Either of these options would work for BYU.

  3. Option 4 could be viable if BYU hadn't decided to let a budding OC serve his internship in what was headed to become an elite program -- let's show some big-boy thinking to show that we belong with the big boys.

  4. I completely agree: A Big 12 invite is THE option if the program wants to stay relevant. The Big 12 is going to need to go to 12, if not 16 schools in the next 3 years, and BYU had better be on the speed-dial.

  5. I agree. The Big 12 is the best option long term. Independence is fine right now, but it won't last long with the way things are changing. Either way, BYU needs to WIN GAMES before they can even consider a shot at the BCS, and right now they're not getting it done. Maybe get a coach who knows how to win big games first THEN worry about which conference to join.

  6. Good article, and I think almost all fans would agree with you, including me.

    It's interesting to think about forming our own conference. Who would be the members? My vote:

    Boise State
    Air Force
    Colorado State
    New Mexico
    Utah State

    For it to be worthwhile I think we should also move all sports into the new conference. Sorry, WCC.

  7. BYU needs to follow the path that Notre Dame is taking. We need to stay independent until we are forced to join a conference. If we are having a special year where we are undefeated at years end, we will no doubt be included in the "new BCS". With the future schedules we have coming down the pipe, to go undefeated we would HAVE to be in the top 10 and likely get the at-large invite. As someone stated above, it all comes down to winning. Personally, I wouldn't want to be involved in a BCS game against a legitimate team, just because we won a watered down Big East and got in at 8-3 or 7-4. That doesn't do much for the perception of your program. Look at Maryland ('02), Pitt ('05), Wake Forest ('07), Cinn ('09), Uconn ('11), Notre Dame ('01, '06, '07).. all teams that won their way into a BCS game by winning a weak conference (in ND case, won enough games with a weak schedule), had multiple losses, and went on to get thumped on the big stage and thus are still viewed as lower tier teams (exception is this years ND team), getting in at the expense of better teams. Everyone was bugged that they had to watch these teams in the big games. Compare those teams to Boise State('07, '10), TCU ('10, 11), Utah (ugh.. '05, '09).. teams that pretty much had to win out with a solid schedule and now have plenty of national respect. People WANTED these teams to play in the BCS against top tier competition. I would much rather be associated with the latter group. Joining an inferior conference like the Big East or MWC just for easier access lumps us in with the former group.

    If BYU wins out in '13 or even has 1 loss, they should be included in the BCS picture. We don't need a conference right now to get where we want. We just need an offensive coordinator, but I digress...

    All that said, we need beg the Big XII to get in. We should look at bumping our tithing up to 12% for a few years and pass that along. ;)

  8. For me you missed the best "right now" option: Join the MWC in all other sports with a football scheduling agreement.

    BYU in the short term should follow exactly what Notre Dame just did with the ACC. Stay independent because only the Big-12 full membership would be better at this point. Convince the MWC to get SDSU and Boise State back in the fold, bringing them to 12 teams. BYU then joins in all other sports, Hawaii is a football only school so it should be a round 12 teams in other sports. Then have a scheduling agreement to play November games against MWC teams. Insist on lower level teams like Wyoming or New Mexico only coming to Provo.

    For me, this is similar to a new conference. It would really be a nice basketball conference with BYU, UNLV, SDSU, New Mexico, Nevada and Utah State.

    The other option I really like is building a new conference, that would not have the negative stigma of the MWC, and a new commissioner. I like the base of BYU, Boise St., SDSU, SMU and Houston that was mentioned. However, to me UNLV, Nevada, and Fresno State are also musts. Colorado State (market, academics and size), New Mexico and San Jose State are other likely choices.

  9. Independance fulfills all of BYU's unique agenda and mission. These can not be met in a conference, including the PAC-??. People keep trying to put BYU's square peg into every conferences round hole. Next to Notre Dame, BYU has the best gig in college football. It gets to play all over the country on national TV 7-13 times per year, depending on their record. Not even the best teams in the best conferences (including USC & UT) get that kind of exposure. Why would they want something less???

  10. I agree with Chodilicus. Joining the Mountain West in the same manner that Notre Dame joined the ACC would be a very good option. Also, creating a new conference is something to discuss with some other schools, as well. Of course, I don't know if either of these options is really viable. The MWC may still be too ticked off at BYU, but that option would be good for the MWC.

  11. Beg the big 12. Get down on your knees and beg. Anything less than the big 12 would be a dissapointment. The big 12 is the best way to play in a bcs game or have a better bowl every year. Candy (indy) is dandy but liquor (big12) is quicker.

  12. I've been thinking along the same lines as Chodilicus.

    BYU should do what Notre Dame did! The Big East is on shaky ground and needs BYU far more than BYU needs the Big East. The MWC is more stable but could also use BYU to give it some credibility.

    I'd love to see BYU enter into an agreement with either the Big East or the MWC to schedule 6 games a year (perhaps even 4 home and 2 away--dreaming, I know). AND also work out an agreement to the conference's bowls if they finish ranked ahead of the conference teams.
    This would help with scheduling, would create some rivalries (annual games with AF, Boise St, etc), and it would give BYU more and better bowl options.
    Additionally, it would leave BYU free to join another conference if and when they came calling.
    For the conference (be it the Big East of the MWC) it would bring some stability and credibility.

  13. BYU can schedule better (more profitable and TV-attractive) contests as an independent than they can get in the Big 12. If they can't land in the top 10 as an independent, why would they have any hope within the Big 12.

    Big 12 is a far inferior option to current independent status.

  14. No matter how you look at this, there are really 3 big factors to consider:
    1. Scheduling--being able to play good teams, have an equal number of home and aways (or even more homes), and having a good schedule through Nov. It is also nice to have a few consistent rivalries (Boise St., Utah St, Air Force, Utah.)
    2. Bowl game access--Being able to play an opponent as good or slightly better than you are in a bowl game should be the goal.
    3. TV contracts and $$.

    BYU, as an independent is really almost-there in all 3 categories. If they can just focus on winning, everything will eventually line up well for them as independents.

    I agree with Goldminer Joe--joining the Big 12 may do what joining the Pac 12 did for Utah--improve overall possibilities while lowering performance.

    Fans love to see their team win--BYU's golden years were in the WAC, after all.