BYU has been a football independent and member of the West Coast Conference in most other sports for a little more than two years now, as you surely know if you've read the articles on that subject in Saturday's Tribune.
Here's my story about how BYU officials are pleased with the route they took on Sept. 1, 2010, and some commentary on the decision from columnist Kurt Kragthorpe.
A week ago, I asked for input from reader's of this blog, and got quite a few excellent responses. A couple of them were featured in the article, near the end. Unfortunately, there were many more that couldn't be included, due to space restraints.
I've decided to publish some of the best ones here:
I have enjoyed independence and we are better off then when we where
in the MWC. It is great to have such easy access for watching the
games on TV. The strength of schedule is another plus.
Scott Chapple, West Jordan (Utah)
I love that BYU went independent. I was on my mission when my brother told me in an email.
For one, being independent is unique. There are only 3 other independent schools, and unique is possibly the best adjective to describe BYU.
Independence bodes well to help the school travel to more parts of the country and more importantly it allows more schools to visit Provo and see what BYU stands for and what its all about.
Now we don't have to play those conference games that can be dull: unlv, Wyoming, New Mexico, Colorado st. etc.
BUT we can still schedule some "wins" at home with lower teams that would love to play a program like ours.
Although we may not win anymore conference championships we are able to play bigger games on bigger stages.
Those conference titles usually are shared with TCU or Utah anyway.
I do hate to see the rivalry game with Utah go, but Utah state has become more of a competitive game which has been good awesome!
I feel FREE being an independent!
22 year old USU student, lifelong BYU fan
Played receiver with Ammon Olsen at Alta High School in 2008
In my opinion, independence has been nothing but positive. Access to BCS bowls is exactly the same as it was before, BYU has to go undefeated. As someone that doesn't subscribe to cable, I love that I can now watch BYU Football games on my laptop for almost every game. I don't like the loss of great rivalries, but that's happening all over college football right now. I enjoyed the Mountain West, and I do miss it, but I don't miss trying to find and watch the games on sketchy websites. The biggest drawback to being independent, in my opinion, is the fact that if BYU loses 2-3 games early in the season, the games just aren't as fun to watch down the stretch because there doesn't seem to be much to work for. However, with better scheduling later in the season, I think this issue will be solved and I can't really find any other negatives with the arrangement.
Silver Spring, MD
As a BYU fan I love the fact that they are independent in football. I live on the east coast and previously got to watch one or two games on tv. The ESPN deal (and the aways teams they have played) have allowed me to watch all of the games for the last two seasons. I have also been able to go to a game every year as the games that BYU schedules are closer to me. I hope that BYU can continue to schedule at least a game or two on the east coast, which it looks like they are doing.
As for other sports, I feel that the WCC is a bit of a disappointment. It is sad to go to arenas that are smaller than my high school basketball arena. However, I think it was the best move for BYU, considering the Mountain West. If BYU can get into a major conference I would be delighted.
Marc Fuller, East Coast
Yes, as a fan – I am happy with our Independence and WCC status. I think it is head and shoulders above being in the MWC. Given our options at the time, I think it was absolutely the best move possible. Having said that, I would be even happier if we were in the Big 12 or PAC 12.
Jeff Bauserman, Abingdon, VA
This is in response to your request for reaction to BYU's independence in football.
I support independence for several reasons:
1. I can see the games. I could not see them under the Mountain West television arrangement.
2. The world can see the games. It is great that the school and the team get exposure throughout the world on ESPN and BYUTV. I love the exposure that goes to high school (and younger) football players who would otherwise not consider BYU as an option. I value the LDS Church missionary benefit as well.
3. Although scheduling is challenging, it is wonderful that BYU can go to and receive visits from Oregon State, Texas, Notre Dame, Mississippi, Virginia and USC among others.
I will be at the Virginia game next month and probably the Utah State game in October.
Thank you for your coverage of the BYU teams.
I like it a lot. My question is why we didn’t do it sooner. Out of loyalty I assume. With a couple years of independence when the Big 12 was on life support and having better establish our brand with Collie, Pitta and Hall playing each week on ESPN, we would have been invited.
I wrote the following blog post three years ago when BYU announced it
was going independent:
How do I feel about it three years later? So far, it seems to be going
great; it has been wonderful to be able to watch almost every BYU
football game live (and usually in HD), and the only real problem has
been the actual performance of the team, particularly last year. :-)
Would I be upset if BYU were to join a conference? Well, that depends
upon the conference. In spite of the persistent rumors, I just couldn't
believe that BYU would join the Big East (a bad idea for any number of
reasons). Frankly, the two 'name' conferences that make the most sense
are the Big 12 and the Pac 12, and I'm not sure either one is going to
let a Mormon school in.
As for the Mountain West, well, it has made great strides to make itself
more respectable, and it's now got a contract with ESPN (vs. the
never-to-be-sufficiently-damned agreement with The Mtn/Comcast). But I'm
not sure rejoining the MWC would be an advantage over remaining
independent. So, unless Holmoe runs into some real trouble putting
together a schedule year after year -- and so far, he seems to have done
a great job -- I think BYU may be best served by staying the course and
I have been a BYU fan for more than 40 years and have lived away from Utah for all my years except for the time I was a student at BYU. I can say from my perspective that going independent for BYU was the best thing since LaVelle Edwards. With the end of the "dark" ages and Mtn network fans outside of Utah we can now watch BYU games. As for the fans that grumble about the WCC, I say we have nothing to complain about and much to be grateful for. Until we routinely win confernece championships in any of the sports where we compete in that league we only make ourselves look like the image Wyoming, New Mexico and SDSU fans portrayed us to be.
Ron Bass, in Illinois
Regarding BYU Football – I certainly understand why BYU left the MWC. Going independent may have been the best remaining option. I believe that Mr Holmoe is doing a very good job with that tough challenge. We’ll see if Bronco and team can stand up to the tough teams being scheduled. BYU has had a 2 year ‘grace period’ in my mind. Now the real seasons begin. BUT… I do miss familiar conference rivalries, championships, and traditional bowl games. To be honest, I hate all this football conference realignment… traditions are gone. I actually preferred the system pre-BCS (oops, now my opinion doesn’t count…). Sure, there was no valid national champion, but it was always something to discuss (with passion at times). BYU football is kinda in ‘no-man’s’ land. Nowhere to go, so just make the best of it.
Regarding WCC/Basketball – I haven’t cared for this at all. I believe the WCC group to be an honest, upstanding group. But I definitely think this was a step down in competition and could eventually hurt recruiting (as BYU just landed a stellar bunch of recruits… I know). Again, I miss the traditions of the traditional tough travel to Wyoming, Utah, New Mexico, SDSU (and especially the old-time travel to UTEP!). I miss those larger, louder environments. In my opinion BYU would not have done well against the MWC teams, but so be it, the team didn’t perform. I hope Coach Rose can hang in there. That being said, if BYU can find a better/tougher conference to join, fine; but they (BYU) better make sure that the WCC is treated with honor and not jilted. I think that BYU joining was a win for the WCC, and a place to land for BYU, but BYU needs to honor the commitments made to that conference before just packing up and leaving - if/when an offer comes.
Bret Corbridge, Orem (Utah)
I miss playing some of the teams from the MWC, but I don't miss the MWC television coverage.
As an Independent I love being able to see BYU on TV every game, and like the Virginia Game in August, have more opportunities to see the Cougars play in person.
I'm a BYU alum living in Las Vegas and think going independent in football has been overwhelmingly positive for the following reasons:
• The caliber of teams the football team plays has been awesome.
• The visibility on national TV has been great, not only for fans but for recruiting. How do you think a young man reacts to "you'll play on a team that plays 8 to 10 games per year on national TV, mostly ESPN," versus, "You may get on national TV a few times on the CBS Sports Network."
• So we are recruiting better, it may not be evident at the top yet but the middle seems to have gotten better
• As a partner with ESPN the change in news coverage has also been dramatic. They talk about us more and in a more positive light.
• The WCC in other sports have been competitive.
• The bowl situation may be a little less but not much. If we stayed in the mountain west conference and won the league title BYU would play the fifth or six ranked PAC-12 team.
Mike, Las Vegas
I had been campaigning for BYU to go independent 5 years before they pulled the trigger. For too long BYU was doing the heavy lifting for most if not all the teams in their conferences, both the WAC and MWC. There is no argument that BYU was the marquee team, the money maker for the conferences. Whenever BYU came to town most conference schools would see their highest attendance of the season and it was their school's "bowl" game, they could have a losing season but a win against BYU would make the season a success. BYU was definitely THE big fish in a small pond.
The facts show that there is a national interest for BYU football. In 2011 I did some research and wrote an article about BYU's national draw. At every road game that BYU played at a BCS school but one since 2000 the attendance was higher than the host school's average home attendance for that season. For example, BYU went to Virginia in 2000, the Cavs average attendance for that season was 56271, the attendance for the BYU game was 60435 (+7.4%). Anywhere in the country BYU plays attendance goes up, BYU is relevant.
In comparison, during that same period the U of U had only one game at a BCS school where the attendance was higher than the season average and that period included both of their glory years.
To sum it up, I love BYU's independence and the opportunity I get as a college football fan to see the Cougs match up against teams from all over the country and from different conferences. The exposure and the promotion of the school's mission has been outstanding and I hope independence continues.
There's not a whole lot of fanatic in my BYU fandom, but I love the WCC. I enjoy the fact that we are competing with other religious-based institutions who have a feel for the mission of the Y and what makes our school different. It's a solid basketball league, a really good baseball league and offers great competition for other men's and women's sports. The football independence thing only works if the rest of the sports can compete on a high level as well. I think the WCC partnership makes everything come together.
You asked for a BYU fan assessment of BYU's current athletic situation. Here is mine:
• I have the utmost respect for the WCC and am grateful for their willingness to embrace BYU. The locations of WCC schools are perfect for BYU since the majority of BYU's alumni base resides on the west coast. These cities are also beautiful and fantastic fan destinations. I'll also acknowledge that BYU men's basketball has struggled against Gonzaga and Saint Mary's and has a lot of work to do if it wants to be top dog in the WCC. Having said that, I see the WCC as a significant downgrade from the MWC, especially in basketball. The MWC has really come into its own as a league and is currently the most respected basketball league outside the Big 6. In the Mountain West, BYU played major state schools with large gymnasiums and solid traditions of winning basketball (UNLV, New Mexico, San Diego State). In the WCC, however, we play in gyms that in some cases resemble high school gyms against teams that most of the nation has never heard of. Again, this is no knock on the WCC; they have purposely student bodies and have no need for large gyms or the desire to invest huge dollars in building an athletics brand. It's just that BYU has a student body of 33,000, an arena that seats 20,000, a national brand, and a huge athletics budget. It just seems like a bad fit. BYU is not too good for the WCC, it is just too big.
• The ideal scenario for BYU is the PAC-12, with the Big 12 a close second. If those do not become options in the near future, I would advocate BYU returning its sports to the Mountain West--so long as the MWC allows BYU to keep its football team independent if that's what BYU wants (that ESPN contract is pretty sweet!).
• I am reserving judgment of BYU being indy in football until I can see how good of schedules BYU can put together down the road. This season (2013) looks to be a fantastic schedule and perhaps the best ever, but already I see a drop off in the quality of next year's schedule, especially the home games. For me to be happy long-term with the indy arrangement, BYU is going to have to consistently replicate the quality of this year's schedule, or at least come close. My one major concern about being indy in football is the lack of conference rivalry games and lack of a conference championship. Those things make the season so much more intense, and not having them removes a lot of the drama that makes football so exciting. This is especially true when you don't have good November games. Hopefully BYU can move the Boise State or Utah State series to November. Utah seems to be chickening out of the rivalry, so I'm happy to establish new rivalries with teams that aren't too big for their britches. The PAC-12 allows USC and Stanford to play out of conference games against Notre Dame in November. If Utah doesn't have the guts to push for a November BYU game, or at the very least play every year in September without any silly "breaks," I would advocate BYU dropping Utah permanently--in all sports.
BYU class of 1999
Salt Lake City, UT
I don't like it.
Texas Cougar fan here - and while it's nice to see them come to the area, no conference affiliation creates too many 'exhibition' type games.
Games without much meaning and no rivalries with conference foes any more. Conference titles mean something.
Since you wanted a strong opinion on this, here's one that probably will shock many.
BYU Athletics will get its "real new birth of freedom" when some likely forthcoming attrition takes place on their governing board. If Boyd K Packer had passed on (he could any time from what he says), before 2 summers ago (2011) it's a fairly safe assumption BYU and not West Virginia would be in the Big 12.
As you're perhaps more aware than most if us, President Packer does not like the athletic mission of BYU and has long wanted to curtail its brand and influence. Some sources have indicated he has wanted for years for BYU at the very least to drop football.
The same holds true academically in that for the past 2 decades Packer has pushed for and demanded BYU curtail and even eliminate post-graduate programs. The BYU governance board is one where seniority has a great deal of power and keep in mind Packer has been either president or acting president of the Council of the Twelve for 19 years now.
Probably one big element behind Boyd Packer's agenda in all this has been to protect both the academic and athletic relevance of his alma-matter Utah State University. Like many Utah State alumni of his era he was no doubt very upset BYU pushed aside seemingly Utah State when the original WAC was formed from remnants if the Skyline 6 & Border Conferences. This despite being an EdD student at BYU at the time.
Packer had also exhibited some strong opinions from the pulpit about the need to keep BYU a primarily undergraduate focused institution. A BYU move to the Big 12 would likely jeopardize this, and in an unlikely scenario a move to the Pac-12 would obliterate it completely. A February speech at a CES devotional "Go Towards the Light" in February 1991 will shed the most evidence on this one. The Ricks College transformation into BYU-Idaho will also shed light on what Boyd K Packer thinks an LDS Church run institution should look like.
But in the end I really sense President Packer does not want Utah State University to sink to the overall relevance of Weber State, Utah Valley or Southern Utah Universities, so hence the strong post-graduate academic constraints on BYU (which offends the Pac-12 academic kingpins Stanford & Cal-Berkeley), and inability to have a strong Board of Trustees level of support which has turned off many of the Big 12 institutional leaders and fans. Craig Thompson at the MWC knows these underlying politics governing BYU better than anyone which is why he made the first move 3 years ago at Utah State, as well as taking them to hopefully blackmail BYU back to the MWC... he didn't want to just gut the WAC, more to it.
I think after Boyd K Packer passes on, we just might see BYU make a conference move since there's more likely to be a strong consensus amongst the senior brethren of the LDS Church to do so. In the end Tom Holmoe just might have 2 significant leagues fighting over the loyalties of BYU.
My 2 cents worth in strong opinion,
David C. Moore, Salt Lake City
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