Mountain West Conference: If BYU Is Staying, It Should Get More Money

Ryan TeeplesCorrespondent IJune 25, 2010

LAS VEGAS - DECEMBER 22:  Quarterback Max Hall #15 of the Brigham Young University Cougars runs for yardage against Ben Motter #78 of the Oregon State Beavers during the MAACO Las Vegas Bowl at Sam Boyd Stadium December 22, 2009 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The University of Utah, looking out for itself (rightfully so) went to the Pac -10. Boise State also improved its program and left the WAC behind.

The New Mountain West Conference isn't much different (on paper, at least) than the old one. It's still hampered by a poor TV contract, has little chance of earning an automatic BCS bid and is weighted down by poor football programs at the bottom.

But it does have one school who holds the cards and needs to start looking out for itself, just as Utah and BSU did; BYU.

BYU Continues to support the family

Now that the dust has settled on conference realignment and TV-driven program shuffling, very little has actually changed for the MWC and its remaining teams.

The league continues to be supported by BYU, which boasts the largest institution, TV audience and alumni base. It is more hamstrung than the rest of the conference by a TV contract whose biggest problem isn’t distribution or money; it’s obsolescence and equity.

The MWC television contract is already out-dated

The current contract was signed in 2006, and runs through 2016. A whopping 10 years and $120 million. The deal, at the time it was signed, delivered a lot more money to the conference than it was being offered from traditional broadcaster ESPN.

But that was five years ago, and today, TV contracts are fetching much higher dollar amounts. PAC-10 schools, with the new 12-team alignment, are expected to earn as much as $20 million per year from television revenues. The Mountain West’s teams will be lucky to see $1 million each.

So a renegotiation and restructuring of the TV deal for the 2011 season should (theoretically) bring more revenue.  Add in some potential expansion into other TV markets, and things really could change.

BYU, as the conference's anchor program should be fighting vehemently for renegotiation. If it doesn't get it, it should leave.

But there are plenty more problems with the TV deal, especially if you’re BYU.

If it stays in the MWC, BYU should demand a bigger revenue share

Texas toyed with defecting to the PAC-10, simply to earn more TV dollars. Instead, the Big-12 held itself together by kowtowing to its flagship school, giving them a higher percentage of the TV money.

It’s called Meritocracy. You earn in proportion to what you bring in value. Texas was driving a ton of the TV contract’s value, and as such, they will get more money than, say, Baylor, who brings little to the table.

It’s been no secret to the schools and TV networks that the majority of the TV contract value is driven by BYU as an anchor. Add in TCU and its Texas market (#5), and Boise State’s “darling” status nationally and you’ve got a nice group. Even Air Force brings a national audience and appeal as a service academy.

But the rest of the conference is bringing little to the table in terms of television value (see detail below).

If BYU determines its best course of action is to stay in the Mountain West Conference, it should demand (deservedly so) a bigger piece of the revenue, or walk.  The precedent is now there. College Football isn’t socialism.

Looking at the MWC Leeches

  • Colorado State is an average sized school (about 20,000 students), but remains second fiddle to CU and doesn’t deliver the Denver market.
  • UNLV is a bigger school (30,000 students) and has a decent market (#42), but it’s still a basketball school (at best). Same for New Mexico (#44 market). Both have sub-par football facilities, programs and community commitment. 
  • Wyoming simply has no business being a 1A (or FBS) school. It’s size (12,000 students), market (Casper, #196), facilities and locale are 1AA (or FCS) all the way. Think Montana and Montana State.
  • San Diego State is trickier. It’s a large school (30,000 students) in a solid TV market (#28). But its football program has never found consistent success.