By Danny Holmgren
So you really thought that the conference re-alignment situation from 2011 had settled, did you? Not so fast there, my friend! After a relatively quiet 2012 season, conference shuffle-wise, the realignment talks are back in full swing this week.
Though nothing really happened immediately after it, the root cause of the 2012 version can be traced back to the BCS finally agreeing to a playoff. Under this playoff, the top 4 teams in the BCS rankings will be paired in a four team playoff with the winners squaring off in the National Championship Game. Under this re-structuring the Big East will no longer be defined as a “power conference” and will not have the automatic qualifying status it held under the previous 14 year reign of the BCS. How more Big East teams didn’t start abandoning ship before now is beyond me, but they’ve finally caught on and are on the move. With Rutgers officially announcing today that they are joining the Big 10 Conference, four of the Big East’s stronger football programs have now left he conference since last season. The Big East has scrambled to replace them, but frankly, adding San Diego State, SMU, and Memphis is hardly beefing up your resume. The Big East is hurting.
Meanwhile, BYU has just gone about it’s merry way in football independence. 2012 marked one of the toughest schedules that BYU has ever had and 2013 is even tougher. Nearly all games have been played on ESPN, who reports that ratings have been solid on the BYU broadcasts. That should bring hope to sweeten the $4M /year deal that BYU currently has with the worldwide leader.
Then the realignment fireworks started flying this weekend. Rutgers leaving the Big East and Maryland leaving the ACC normally wouldn’t have any impact on BYU, but in the case of the conferences fighting for survival, BYU suddenly has had itself voluntarily or involuntarily thrown back into the conference conundrum. Reports surfaced Monday afternoon that the Mountain West Conference has been in talks with BYU, SDSU, and Boise State to rejoin the conference, which would all but kill any hopes the Big East had of becoming a “power” conference again. After most BYU fans finished projectile vomiting over the idea of rejoining the dreaded MWC that they abandoned in 2011, they were left to wonder why the MWC would want them back and why BYU would ever even consider answering the call. Just last week BYU had scheduled a home-and-home with UNLV, many assumed as a sort of a slap in the face to MWC commissioner Craig Thompson. Does it make any sense to join any conference, much less rejoin the one that aggravated you to the point of secession?
That really depends on what the purpose of the BYU football program is and what the the conference can offer. To Coach Doman, the purpose of BYU football is to run pitch-option to the short side of the field on 3rd-and-long situations while wondering what might have been with Saint Heaps. To Coach Mendenhall, the purpose of the program is to be a missionary tool for the LDS Church, showing how young men can develop into men of character and integrity, while demonstrating a strong work ethic and commitment to team. To Athletic Director Tom Holmoe, BYU wants to be on the map as one of the elite football teams in the nation, a team that continuously recruits top talent, wins big games, is recognized and respected on a national level, and maybe even win a championship. In any of those situations, I can’t see how playing in the MWC is helpful in any way. Coach Mendenhall said it best when asked about the possibility after Monday night’s practice. “It’s about the same access we had before, the way I see it. We’ll still have to be undefeated, I think, to be considered.”
Re-joining the MWC does nothing for BYU in terms of TV contracts, TV revenue, scheduling, respect and recognition, competitiveness, or overall exposure to the program.What else is there? Beats me. I tend to think that the rumor of these discussions taking place are just that: rumor. If not, I hope that BYU will treat the MWC like the ex-girlfriend that you broke up with promising to stay friends, but really have no intention of ever speaking with again. Don’t take her calls, BYU. Don’t respond to her texts. If you see her walking across campus towards you, turn and walk the other way. You broke up with her for a reason.