Colleague Andy Katz has delivered some truly breaking news -- BYU is moving closer to football independence.
Let us take a look at potential ramifications:
What happens to the Mountain West?
If BYU leaves the Mountain West, the conference’s ability to reach automatic qualifying status in the BCS would appear to be in jeopardy. The MWC would take a big hit without one of its best programs over the last two years. The BCS is currently in Year 2 of a four-year evaluation cycle, so nothing right now is guaranteed. If the MWC does fall short at the end of the evaluation period, the next step would be to ask for a waiver to be granted AQ status. Without BYU, the chance of the waiver being granted probably decreases.
The Mountain West is a nine-team league, and commissioner Craig Thompson said this past summer the league had no plans to expand. Losing BYU could force its hand. Indeed, Katz reports that MWC representatives approached WAC members Fresno State and Nevada about joining the league, but both declined. Why? The WAC instituted a $5 million buyout for schools who want to leave in an effort to stop others from defecting with Boise State, which joins the MWC in 2011.
So if WAC schools are out, where does the MWC turn? Remember, a league must have at least eight members to be an FBS conference. The most logical place would be Conference USA, but even there, no team has the same credentials as BYU when it comes to AQ membership.
Why go independent?
The Cougars are breaking the mold here. There are only three independent teams left in the country — Notre Dame, Army and Navy. The moves this summer indicated college football was moving more toward a superconference era. Does going independent make that easier? It is hard to tell. First, the Pac-10 snubbed BYU and went with Colorado and Utah instead. So what are the chances the Pac-10 looks at an independent a second time around? The Big 12 is on shaky ground. Would that conference add BYU? Those two conferences seem to be the only logical landing spots.
Scheduling is going to be much tougher. Though BYU would play several WAC teams, it would have to go after others to fill out the rest of its season. Boise State has had a difficult time getting its handful of marquee nonconference games. BYU could encounter similar obstacles.
But going independent means keeping TV dollars and potential BCS money all for itself. BYU already has its own network, and there is a possibility an independent BYU could negotiate its own national TV deal like Notre Dame. But the chances of BYU being given the same status as Notre Dame when it comes to gaining entry into a BCS game do not appear to be great.