SBD/Issue 243/Collegiate Sports

BYU To Go Independent In Football, Join WCC For Other Sports

BYU Will Become A Football Independent
Starting With The '11-12 School Year

BYU is "going independent in football and will place most of its other sports" in the West Coast Conference, according to Jay Drew of the SALT LAKE TRIBUNE. BYU "needed to give notice to the Mountain West Conference of its departure" by today, and the school has scheduled a 12:00pm MT press conference to announce the move, which "will be effective for the 2011-12 academic year." BYU's decision "comes as a blow to the Western Athletic Conference, which negotiated two weeks ago for the Cougars to join the league in non-football sports -- and play as many as six WAC members in football." But those plans were "scuttled when the WAC's Nevada and Fresno State agreed to join" the MWC. WAC Commissioner Karl Benson declined comment yesterday, but has a press conference planned for today "in which he said he would cover a range of issues." Drew notes "unknown immediately is what kind [of] television arrangement BYU has negotiated." ESPN officials last week acknowledged that they were "engaged in discussions with BYU to televise multiple Cougar home football games." The school also will "televise at least some games on BYUtv, which reaches 60 million homes nationally." The WCC also is "set to renegotiate its contract" with ESPN, and the BYU addition will "no doubt strengthen the WCC's position in that regard." BCS Exec Dir Bill Hancock last week said that the BCS' BOD "will meet the third week of September, and will likely discuss what to do about BYU at that time" (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 9/1). The WCC "does not sponsor softball, swimming and diving or track and field -- sports that BYU competes in." It is "not yet known how those sports will be affected by the move to the WCC" (DESERET NEWS, 9/1).

GAINING EXPOSURE: In Salt Lake City, Gordon Monson writes BYU's actions "if nothing else ... reveal the level of desperation it felt, playing a brand of football that deserves to be in a BCS league, having a program that lures more fans and generates more interest than many BCS teams do, and, yet, presently finding no way in." It is a "probability that going independent will make it harder, not easier, for the Cougars to qualify for a BCS bowl," but the school also can "bask now in what ESPN can bring" (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 9/1). In Utah, Jeff Call writes if BYU was "looking for increased exposure for its football program, this move -- with help from cable giant ESPN -- has the potential of accomplishing that goal" (DESERET NEWS, 9/1). YAHOO SPORTS' Matt Hinton wrote the "bet" is that BYU can strike its own TV deal "for more than the roughly $1.3 million annual payout it earns through the MWC" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 8/31).

REASONS FOR DEPARTURE: In Denver, Natalie Meisler reports BYU VP/Advancement Kevin Worthen sent an e-mail last Tuesday to MWC Commissioner Craig Thompson and the conference's presidents and ADs in which the school "listed 'concerns' about limited access of programming for its BYU-TV." Versus and CBS College Sports "have first choice of programming" for MWC games, and "other events are picking up by" The mtn. Worthen: "We readily acknowledge the many obvious advantages of staying in the MWC, but we also note that our many years of frustration with the TV partners somewhat dims our optimism of achieving a true, mutually beneficial partnership with them" (DENVER POST, 9/1). In Ft. Worth, Gil LeBreton reports BYU officials "appeared to be excited about an impending partnership with ESPN." But sources said that the school "greatly overestimated what the ESPN games would pay." LeBreton writes BYU is "destined to be Wednesday or Thursday night programming alternatives" on the net (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 9/1).

MWC's Thompson (r) Says Conference Will
Continue To Explore Options On Membership

BLOW TO MWC: In Las Vegas, Ed Graney writes now that the Salt Lake City TV market, which has 944,000 TV HHs, "has been removed" from the MWC, "every option should be on the table and discussed." That includes "trying to work again with ESPN as the league's main carrier." Graney: "It's time to get real and admit a horrible mistake has been made. The current TV deal is a disaster" (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 9/1). In San Diego, Brent Schrotenboer writes the loss of BYU "is considered a harmful blow to the MWC, just two months after another prized member," the Univ. of Utah, "announced plans to leave the MWC for the Pac-10." The MWC now has "10 committed future members," including its seven remaining schools, Boise State, Nevada and Fresno State. The three new markers have combined TV HHs of "more than 1.1 million." But the MWC "now has one more mouth to feed in revenue sharing with 10 future members instead of nine currently," which "could mean that each MWC member's revenue share could shrink if its future TV contracts aren't big enough to make up for the addition of a new member." Meanwhile, a MWC memo indicated that the conference "plans to continue to explore partnerships with Conference USA and take talks with that league 'to the next level' ... to boost its future options." Thompson in a statement yesterday said the conference's BOD's "diligent exploration of options to advance the membership's objectives is ongoing." Thompson: "This includes conversations with our television partners to address issues of mutual importance, as well as determining the optimal configuration for the conference and investigating the possibility of various collaborative alliances" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 9/1).

WINNERS & LOSERS: ESPN.com's Andy Katz wrote the addition of BYU is a "major coup for the WCC, which is expanding to nine teams and adding a new member for the first time in 30 years, when it added San Diego and Gonzaga." A source: "This transforms the league with one move." Katz noted the WCC "will increase its 14-game men's basketball schedule to a true round-robin 16-game schedule for the 2011-2012 season" (ESPN.com, 8/31). In Salt Lake, Kurt Kragthorpe writes the WCC "already is a strong basketball league, and BYU will make it better." Meanwhile, "losers" from the move include "BYU's football program, which now faces much greater scheduling challenges without WAC anchors; Utah State's athletic program, left in a weakened WAC; and the WAC itself, which was going to be nicely positioned for the future before losing Nevada and Fresno State to the Mountain West's counterattack" (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 9/1). YAHOO SPORTS' Matt Norlander wrote BYU "instantly becomes the bread-winner" in the WCC. But "from a basketball perspective and what it does to the Cougs' strength of schedule," playing men's basketball in the WCC as opposed to the MWC is a "demotion, no question" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 8/31).

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