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Jeff Eisenberg

BYU's exit is all but official, so let's look at the pros and cons

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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Unlike Texas' month-long flirtation with the Pac-10 earlier this summer, a resolution on BYU's fate will come in a hurry, it appears.

The Salt Lake Tribune reports that BYU will seek final approval from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints either Wednesday or Thursday to leave the Mountain West Conference. Pending approval, the school could hold a news conference as early as Thursday or Friday to announce it's going independent in football and rejoining the WAC in every other sport.

As I touched on in my post Tuesday night, BYU's departure could potentially touch off a feeding frenzy among the WAC and Conference USA because it's unclear whether the Mountain West can survive without either Utah school. We'll have more on that in a later post, but for now let's look at the pros and cons of this decision purely from BYU's perspective.

The most important aspect to remember here is that BYU may view this move as a stepping stone and not an end game. The Cougars have clearly determined that the Mountain West cannot provide them the guaranteed BCS bids, exposure or TV revenue they want, so they're hoping that football independence helps propel them to where they want to be.

If they make enough money and perform well enough on the field to draw interest from the Big 12 or to somehow negotiate a sweetheart deal similar to Notre Dame's, then going independent was a terrific gamble. If not, then the Cougars will have to determine if scheduling challenges and potential damage to their other sports was worth the increase in TV dollars from launching their own network, brokering their own deals with ESPN and FOX Sports and not sharing bowl revenue.

As always in conference realignment, what's absolutely clear is that basketball again is not a priority.

There is no benefit to BYU basketball in joining the WAC. Not only is there not a single WAC program besides Utah State and maybe Nevada that would be competitive with the upper half of the Mountain West, the conference is also by far the most geographically untenable of any in the nation.

The lone caveat to that is if the WAC can reposition itself as a basketball power by poaching schools like Memphis or UTEP from Conference USA or San Diego State, New Mexico and UNLV from the Mountain West.

It would be an uneasy and possibly short-term alliance to be sure, but it would be a fruitful one from a basketball perspective.


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