Dr. Saturday - NCAAF

Amid the swarm of Big 12/Pac-10/Big Ten expansion-and-contraction drama this summer, there ran a thin filament of idle speculation that Texas and Notre Dame should just break free and form their own media megalith of a mini-conference. That tiny nexus of saturated coverage will indeed come to pass next year, but it will be a newly independent BYU, not the Longhorns, taking up weekly residence alongside the Irish in front of a national audience instead.

Whatever the rest of the Mountain West and WAC think of BYU's chances striking out on its own, ESPN's got faith. The network announced a deal Wednesday to broadcast every Cougar home game for the next eight years, in the same vein as NBC's longstanding partnership with Notre Dame for the Irish's home games. And like the ND/NBC alliance, every aspect of the BYU/ESPN contract cited by university officials Wednesday translates into "lots and lots of money for us," – money that just isn't there in the far-flung cable and satellite destinations mandated by the Mountain West. From the Salt Lake Tribune:

BYU is leaving the Mountain West Conference for two reasons, according to athletic director Tom Holmoe.

"It comes down to two pillars," he said. "Access and exposure. ... Independence increases access to our games for fans everywhere and it increases the exposure of our student-athletes."

Yes, precisely. Pillars made of shiny, shiny ducats.

The deal guarantees at least three BYU games per year on ABC, ESPN or ESPN2 and at least one more on ESPNU beginning next year, when the Cougars are scheduled to blow the popsicle stand they helped found more than a decade ago. It also gives ESPN right of first refusal on neutral-site games. The school's even got its own HD truck on hand for the in-house byuTV network, which already reaches 60 million households worldwide.

Also included in the goodie bag: A six-game series with Notre Dame, already dubbed the "Battle for the Holy Grail," on Twitter, with an indeterminate start date but a guarantee through 2020. Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick cheered the Cougars' decision to break free of its conference chains, as well he might:

"(Independence) is not for everybody, but they certainly fit the profile of an institution for whom it probably does make great sense – frankly, in the same way it still does for Army and Navy," Swarbrick told the [Salt Lake] Tribune on Wednesday.

We're going to venture out on a limb here and assume he doesn't mean, "We're building a non-conference composed entirely of schools who kick their students out for having sex." Sparkling grape juice for everybody!

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Holly welcomes your adulation and veiled threats at nastinchka-at-yahoo, etc.

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