Before this latest phase of college expansion, the Pac-10 was (arguably) the purest college football conference.
It had 10 members, played a round-robin schedule, and had five sets of true rivals, something no other conference could claim.
Now all of that "tradition" goes out the window; welcome, Utah and Colorado. These two schools haven't had any sort of a rivalry since the mid 1940's.
The Pac-10 will now have two divisions, and will have an annual conference championship game.
They've also gotten access to two more solid TV markets: Salt Lake City and Denver.
Although these two schools are relatively close in proximity, they have never been (and never will be) "true" rivals.
It is understandable that the Pac-10 would want Colorado–it gives their conference access to the Denver TV market.
But is that TV market more valuable than the large international following and brand that BYU football has?
In the past, there has been interest at many Pac-10 institutions of adding BYU to the conference.
Whenever the Cougars came to town, whether it was in Los Angeles or Phoenix, BYU would draw fans (rooting for or against) unlike any other school on their non-conference schedule.
BYU has a large alumni base throughout Pac-10 country and has international appeal–Colorado and Utah do not.
The Pac-10 could easily use BYU's international fanbase as a valuable negotiating tool in any TV deal.
There was NOT an (valid) economic reason why BYU was excluded.
The primary reason BYU was excluded was that it was "not a good cultural fit" for the Pac-10.
BYU is a better and more prestigious academic institution than many schools in the Pac-10. But BYU primarily focuses on undergraduate education, doesn't have a medical school, and isn't the type of "research" university the Pac-10 desires.
Utah and Colorado (which are much, much easier schools to get into), are "research" universities.
The main reason BYU was never a serious consideration are three factors:
- BYU will not play any sports on Sundays.
- BYU is a conservative, religious school, which doesn't have the same "academic freedoms" that the Pac-10 holds dear.
- BYU is owned and run by a Church which supported Proposition 8, and generally advocates different principles and ideas than those of Pac-10 institutions.
It is easy to give the Pac-10 a pass on the first reason–it's a legitimate concern. But not a concern that could not easily be worked around. It's a valid excuse, but that's all it is, an excuse.
But deciding not to seriously consider BYU for the other two reasons seems to be against everything for which the Pac-10 stands.
If the conference really is a champion of diversity, they would welcome a conservative, religious school into their conference.
If the Pac-10 really is a champion of religious tolerance, they should welcome BYU.
The Holy War is one of the top-five rivalries in all of college football, quite possibly the most entertaining and competitive rivalry this past decade (2000s).
Adding BYU and Utah makes just as much economic sense as Utah and Colorado. It makes more sense in terms of athletic and academic prestige. It makes the most sense in terms of creating a strong, cohesive, and quality conference brand–six sets of intense, true rivalries.
Over the past 30 years, BYU has been better than Colorado in every sport. BYU is the only team to have won a national championship (1984) in the past 55 years, who isn't in a current power-six BCS conference. They deserve to be in a BCS conference. But deserve has nothing to do with it.
It comes down to the Pac-10 ironically being dogmatic about who can or cannot be a member of their precious conference.
Regardless, BYU will survive and will continue to be competitive with Utah for decades to come. The rivalry will change–it will now be BCS vs. Non-BCS, and won't have the same relevance when it comes to the conference standing.
Fans of both schools should hope that neither school gets an inferiority/superiority mindset and that the rivalry continues to be played each year. Hopefully at the end of the year–Florida and Florida State have a year-end game, even though they are in separate conferences.