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Does BYU independence mean Irish in the future?

Aug 19, 2010, 1:28 AM EDT

Some of the seismic shifts in college football that were mentioned during the offseason finally came to fruition in the past 24 hours. While it wasn’t the Richter scale shaking major conference realignment that many suspected, the Mountain West conference created quite a stir when both Fresno State and Nevada accepted invitations to leave the WAC and join the Mountain West in 2011 or 2012. These invitations were spurred on by the Salt Lake Tribune‘s report that BYU is leaving the Mountain West and going independent in football. The rest of BYU’s athletic programs would rejoin the WAC conference.

BYU would join Notre Dame, Army, and Navy as the only independent teams left in college football, giving credence to some prophetic words from Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick early this week.

“You’ve got to solve the non-football side of the equation,” Swarbrick said, “but it can work. I don’t know if there will be others but it wouldn’t shock me because the landscape is so fluid.”

With BYU’s other sports apparently realigning with the WAC conference, the Cougars seem to have solved the non-football side of the equation. Now comes the daunting task of going it alone, a proposition that BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe talked about earlier this summer.

“Independence is an option that obviously has been out there. We will look at everything. We have looked at everything. There are pros and cons to the Pac-10, the Big Ten, the Big 12, the Mountain West Conference and independence. With all these things there are pros and cons.

“So what you have to do is you have to weigh those and measure them against what? What is right for BYU. And not for what is right for BYU in the year 2010, but what is right for BYU into the future.

“That is quite a bit more complex than most people understand. You have got a constituency to deal with. You have got a school to deal with.”

While there is no match-up currently slated, I’d expect Notre Dame to be open to scheduling BYU in future games, especially with their recent history on the gridiron. The Irish won two of three in their last action against the Cougars, losing the season opener in 2004, sandwiched between wins in 2003 and 2005. If you’re looking for a game to potentially plug in, the Irish have one game that needs to be schedule for the 2011 schedule, as well as potential openings on the 2012 and 2013 slates.

BYU may state that there are pros and cons to every decision, but it’s pretty clear that if the Cougars were willing to walk away from a football conference on the verge of qualifying for an automatic BCS bid, there had to have been a large financial reason to go it alone. Notre Dame’s agreement with the BCS draws the ire of many in down years, but the Cougars likely expect to compete for an at-large bid, pocketing the hefty appearance fee all by themselves. With a prominent national following based largely around the school’s Mormon faith, BYU also likely finds itself appealing to a broadcast network, figuring that any deal struck will recoup more than the $1.3 million in TV money they pocketed from the Mountain West last year.

What remains to be seen, and what could be the multi-million dollar question is how well with the Cougars play as free agents. If the school is able to schedule competitively and return to being one of the elite programs in college football, could BYU become a natural rival of the Irish, will the religious affiliations of both schools adding a unique twist to a potential rivalry?

Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson was sure to skirt most questions regarding BYU’s precarious future with the conference, saying only that as of 9:45 MST Wednesday night, the Cougars are “a member of the Mountain West Conference.” Still, it’s easy to think that if the Cougars truly do go it alone, they’ll likely find their way onto the Irish schedule sometime in the very near future.

  1. TLNDMA - Aug 19, 2010 at 5:56 AM

    I don’t know how wise of a move this is for BYU. Do you think an independent BYU has the same cache as an independent ND? ND at 10-2 goes to a BCS game, BYU at 10-2 goes to Memphis or San Antonio. If they go though a stretch such as ND been on the last ten yrs. will they still be relevant?
    Is this a reaction to Utah going into the Pac-10? I’m sure they can get some kind of TV deal but I doubt it will be with a big time network. Would a better idea be to bring the 10 best teams in the WAC and Mountain West together into one conference?
    I wish them well, hope they make the right move.

  2. Slim Charles - Aug 19, 2010 at 7:41 AM

    gotta think of a good name for this rivalry.
    real religion vs cult?
    Morans vs Morons?

  3. TLNDMA - Aug 19, 2010 at 8:09 AM

    Slim my man, do you think this is the appropriate forum for your nonsense? Football is the topic.

  4. Ryan - Aug 19, 2010 at 9:07 AM

    BYU has their own TV network. They could potentially seek to receive backing from espn or comcast, but they would already get significant exposure from that..at least to those who watch the BYU network.

  5. BryanW - Aug 19, 2010 at 11:08 AM

    Come on Texas! Make the move! You don’t need those weaklings in the Big X(II) holding you back anymore. Join us in the freedom and riches of independence.

  6. grammarian - Aug 19, 2010 at 1:50 PM

    As a small editorial critique, WAC stands for Western Athletic Conference. So WAC conference is redundant, just as MAC conference or SEC conference would be.

  7. Sorinite - Aug 19, 2010 at 6:13 PM

    Slim,
    Your comments are truly unappreciated. If you have any love for Notre Dame, you will repudiate your posting. It is the antithesis of the Notre Dame mission.

  8. Barry - Aug 20, 2010 at 1:18 PM

    I hope BYU goes independent and I hope we schedule them regularly. They are a great program that respects other programs. The Stanford band pulls the same religious bigotry garbage on BYU as they did with Notre Dame.
    I think they were already in negotiations with ESPN for boradcast rights in addition to BYUTV (which I have at my house on basic cable in Kansas)

  9. S Carroll - Aug 20, 2010 at 2:15 PM

    BYU doesn’t need to duplicate the revenues collected by the Irish.
    They just need to get out of the ridiculous TV contract the Mountain West Conference is in.
    BYU is slated to bring in many times what they get now as an independent.

  10. BYU Fan - Aug 21, 2010 at 8:23 AM

    I am a BYU fan, and I was very impressed with the comments that were made here. I’ve always liked ND, and now I like them even more. I hope that BYU is able to pull off independence and have ND as a regular opponent. I could see it becoming a great rivalry. Here’s to hoping!

  11. TLNDMA - Aug 21, 2010 at 10:34 AM

    Any fan of CFB has to respect BYU’s program. That being said, Rocket deserved the Heisman.

  12. Another BYU Fan, Mormon - Aug 22, 2010 at 5:01 PM

    Thank you to the Notre Dame fans who have defended criticisms of my faith. It’s very important to me and millions of others as your faith is to you. I was at a BYU @ Stanford game when Mormonism was distastefully the butt of half time antics. Conversely, while I’ve never attended a game at Notre Dame, I’ve heard from other visitors that the fans and players are notably respectful to opponents and that it truly is a classy program. I look forward to the possibility of more games with Notre Dame.

  13. BYU fan, ND admirer - Aug 25, 2010 at 5:26 PM

    BYU is not trying to be Notre Dame, despite what many in the media are saying about being the “Notre Dame of the West”. BYU AD Tom Holmoe has said on numerous occasions “we know we are not Notre Dame”. All BYU is trying to do is get from under a HORRIBLE TV contract in the MWC, and take advantage of its existing cable TV network and broadcasting facilities, which are said to be as good as any in the country. Athletics are a big part of LDS culture (almost every meeting house has an indoor basketball gym) and it is the mission of BYU to support the educational and cultural endeavors of the LDS church. I have many fond memories as a young LDS boy growing up on the east coast of going to the local meeting house and watching BYU sports broadcast across the churches satellite network. These social gatherings used to be typical in LDS meeting houses all over the country until the MWC signed the terrible contract with Comcast/CBSC. Now BYU football games can only be seen on the “Mtn” channel, which is only available on cable in the Mtn West region. DirecTV carries it but only if you purchase a premium sports package. Dish does not carry it. This has alienated LDS members and BYU fans all over the country (90% of BYU alums live outside of Utah). BYU TV, on the other hand, is available on basic cable/satellite packages almost everywhere. This is why BYU is considering independence. It is not because they have delusions of being the “Notre Dame of the West”.

  14. Zach in Conroe, TX - Aug 26, 2010 at 6:46 PM

    I initially had a reaction of caution but, to be honest, I do believe BYU and Notre Dame can have a respectful rivalry without making religious bigotry a rallying cry. The last thing I would want to see is touchdown Jesus looking out over religiously discriminatory antics.

  15. BlueHusky - Aug 31, 2010 at 6:35 PM

    BYU and ND would make a great rivalry. LDS Church funnels much of their charity dollars through Catholic charities. BYU has recruited Catholic kids for years, including Jim McMahon.
    I’m excited and hopeful that BYU will be independent and able to make these games happen.

  16. Jim in Texas - Sep 11, 2010 at 11:03 AM

    As a TCU alum the exit of Utah and BYU from the Mountain West produces some interesting questions. My personal perception of both of these schools is that they have a “big dog” desire and want to be the center of attention in whatever they are involved in. Kind of like Texas in the Big 12. If the world does not rotate around them they seem to pout. Both of these schools have a long track-record of difficulty making conference agreements and then sticking with them over the long haul.
    It is interesting that they both make decisions to jump the Mountain West ship just when the league is about to qualify as an automatice BCS conference. Gaining BCS status would eventually lead to solving whatever monetary issues those schools have. The Mountain West adding Boise State was a great move. If BYU and Utah had to fortitude to stay the course it would have created a league with 5 or 6 schools really capable of achieving a national ranking each year.
    I do not buy their stated argument that leaving the Mountain West was strictly a monetary decision. I think the thought of playing second fiddle to TCU And Boise State for years to come in football was more than they could take with their narcissitic approach themselves. Evidently, Utah would rather be second fiddle to USC, UCLA, OREGON, and a couple of others, which is what is going to happen to them. The PAC 10 is about California/West Coast schools, and those schools will always be the center of media exposure. Utah has now become a little fish in an alleged bigger pond. Over the long haul, they are not going to like that a bit.
    BYU can now be independent, schedule a bunch of second rate teams and post 10 or 11 wins a year as they toot their own horn and posture for national recognition without competing for anying that means anything. By the 4th week of every season they will have exhausted the possiblity of consistently getting on the schedule of any of the top BCS league teams. To be hired as the person responsible for finding BYU football opponents could become the worst sports job in America.
    I thik Utah and BYU have shot themselves in the foot big-time. The Mountain West football conference was on the brink of achieving new status as a BCS league. I believe the addition of Boise State would have put a lock on that possibility! I don’t think the premodonnas (BYU and Utah) were willing to sit by and watch TCU and Boise State become the primary “powers” of the Mountain West.

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