Well, they called everyone’s bluff.
The BYU Cougars, passed over for Pac-10 membership because of “cultural differences” and jilted by their cross valley rivals, the Utah Utes, decided to go it alone.
This may mean the end of the Mountain West.
The league was formed when the “gang of five”-BYU, Utah, Air Force, Colorado State and New Mexico-decided that their long standing rivalries and allegiances needed to be preserved.
The then recently expanded WAC had 16 teams necessitating round robin scheduling; the ”gang” thus ditched the WAC and formed the Mountain West.
Recently the Mountain West has flirted with BCS inclusion.
A top ten finish by the TCU Horned Frogs the last two years, along with top 25 finishes by the Utes and Cougars, have had them on the cusp of respectability.
With the addition of Boise State, another up and coming power, the Mountain West looked liked it was ready to go places Some, including this writer, counseled that they should quickly poach two more teams to get the league to twelve, increasing chances of BCS inclusion...and of survival.
Nope. "Couldn’t break up the gang of five," naysayers said.
Well, it’s broken now.
The Pac-12’s aborted raid on the Big 12 failed, and when the dust settled they grabbed the Utes to give them 12. BYU is a bigger draw, but too…ya know...not fitting from a "cultural perspective."
Well the Cougars have finally decided that what a lot of people have said is correct: They draw extremely well both at home (29th overall on home attendance) and on the road due to their affiliation with the LDS church.
The Cougars also draw well on the idiot box, especially in the West Region. A strong LDS population throughout the western tier generate them a built-in audience of both Mormon lovers and, let’s be honest, Mormon non-lovers (I just can’t use the word hate here).
And they do have a national presence, due to the same factors.
So BYU is going at it alone. This is probably good for football. Another independent may invigorate the sport a bit and stop the leagues from getting complacent,
The move will certainly yield big dividends to the Cougars themselves, who will now be able to craft out their own TV package.
For the Frog faithful in Fort Worth, however, this is starting to sound like a broken record. TCU is, once again, the odd man out.
The Frogs were left out of the new Big 12 when the old SWC disbanded in the mid 90’s and took Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech and…Baylor?
Now, let me tell you, no way did Baylor deserve to go to the Big 12. But, the Froggies didn’t either. The team that got stiffed in that one was the Houston Cougars, the fourth major public university in the SWC at the time.
But, being what it is, the Frogs were out. So they joined the WAC.
And promptly were jilted when the better half of the WAC split off and formed the Mountain West.
So the Frogs win a couple of WAC championships. Then they traded up. To Conference USA.
And won a couple of championships.
A few years later, the ACC raids the Big East. The Big East raids Conference USA.
Cincinnati, Louisville and South Florida, all of whom were not as good as TCU, get selected to join the Big East and get to the vaunted BCS status.
Why those three and not TCU?
Proximity and decent basketball for Cincy and Louisville, and entry into the Florida market for South Florida. Travel to Texas was just a bridge too far from many of the Big East programs.
OK, say the Frogs, let’s try again. Petition and join the Mountain West, who suddenly are OK with their presence since they are taking names and kicking butt.
Great performances. A couple of championships. Yet, déjà vu all over again.
The top two programs other than them have just left. And Boise State may reconsider and not even join.
Ouch. This is starting to hurt.
So where can the Frogs go from here?
Petition to get into the Big 12?
The other programs in the Big 12 don’t want to have to tangle with the Frogs on a regular basis, and also feel that they would cut into their recruiting even more than they do currently.
Petition the SEC, with the carrot of giving the league an outpost in the lucrative Texas and DFW market for both eyeballs and recruiting?
Nah, the SEC is happy with 12…and if they go to 14 will more likely target Texas A&M along with another school from the eastern tier (West Virginia or Virginia Tech are often mentioned, along with the Florida schools).
Stick to the Mountain West and beg, plead, threaten, and cajole the leadership to expand to 12 teams?
Now that’s a plan.
TCU’s only real chance of realizing some longer term success and getting to BCS status (and the dinero that comes with it) is to build the Mountain West.
Since the father and mother of the league have just left it on the proverbial doorstep, it is the TCU athletic administrations duty to take the helm of the league and push for expansion.
First of all, keep Boise State.
Second, raid Conference USA for Houston and SMU.
Third, go after Fresno State and Nevada in the WAC.
This brings the league up to 12 teams, with three who were top 25 last year (TCU, Boise and Houston) and five others who were decent enough to go to a bowl (Air Force, Wyoming, SMU, Fresno State and Nevada).
But the Frogs have to stop pussy footing around and get the league to get this done.
Otherwise, the door to being a perennial top tier program will close…and they’ll be like Southern Mississippi, who almost made it back in the 90’s, but didn’t, and then fell back into mediocrity.
And it would be a shame to see the Frogs be just a footnote given how the program has built upon itself and performed over the past decade.
So the Frog administration needs to make some moves. Because you can lead, follow….or get out of the way.