BYU Football: Cougars Need to Rejoin Mountain West Conference

Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistNovember 20, 2012

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - SEPTEMBER 15: Head coach of the BYU Cougars Bronco Mendenhall encourages his players during a game against the University of UtahUtes during the second half of an college football game September 15, 2012 at Rice Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, Utah. Utah beat BYU 24-21. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
George Frey/Getty Images

The time has come for Brigham Young to end its conference purgatory.

Following the 2010 season, the Cougars left the Mountain West Conference in favor of becoming independent in football, while affiliating with the West Coast Conference for the remaining major sports. It's a relationship that BYU is looking to rebuild.

Brett McMurphy of ESPN wrote today that Boise State and San Diego State, in addition to BYU, are thinking of joining the Mountain West again. It's a move that would greatly benefit the Cougars.

The switch is likely as a result of the BCS commissioners reserving a spot in a BCS bowl for a member of the "Group of Five." Now, the highest-rated champion from the Mountain West, Mid-American, Sun Belt and Big East Conferences along with Conference USA will earn a BCS berth.

Remaining conference-less is a foolish move for BYU.

For the past few years, they've been stuck finding schools across the country to play. They don't have the status of Notre Dame, so it's not as if opposing schools are lining up to play the Cougars. And even the Fighting Irish are now becoming almost honorary members of the ACC.

Plus, college football is moving closer and closer to the land of super-conferences that include 16-20 teams, with a couple of smaller conferences. You don't want to be the one school left on the outside looking in.

It's inevitable now that the Cougars will find a conference, but the Mountain West provides the best option. The Cougars would likely get lost in one of the big super-conferences. But the Mountain West would provide BYU with enough competition to bolster its resume and keep its ranking high.

The Big East might appear to be the best option in terms of overall competition, but it doesn't make a whole lot of sense now. Of course, Boise State and San Diego State are on course to join the Big East in 2013. But if both Boise State and San Diego State do in fact move to the Mountain West, then there's really no motivation for BYU to join the Big East either.

In the past, moving to the Big East meant an automatic BCS bowl berth in a conference that was largely up for grabs. Now the playing field has been leveled. A Big East team has just as good of a chance at making a BCS bowl as the others in the "Group of Five."

In addition, the Big East has been a conference on the decline in recent years. Miami and Virginia Tech bolted for the ACC in 2004, with Boston College following a year later. West Virginia left for the Big 12, and now Rutgers is leaving for the Big Ten.

When looking at a new conference, BYU should heed the words of author Horace Greeley, who said, "Go West, young man."