If BYU was planning to move to football independence yesterday, they really have no other choice today.
Last night, the Mountain West Conference added the University of Nevada and Fresno State University, effectively forcing members of the conference to split their already meager TV and bowl revenues with another two schools.
But there's a lot of speculation, rumor, and just plain ignorant banter (in the press and on the airwaves) regarding how football independence affects BYU moving forward.
Here, I give the ol' college try (pun intended) in clearing up some of the confusion.
Myth 1: BYU's football schedule will get worse
Uh...have you seen the schedule in recent years? At present,they are required to play Wyoming, Colorado State, UNLV, New Mexico, and San Diego State.
It's hard to get less interesting than those games, especially in years where the Cougars have to play in Laramie (City Motto: "We're not far from Cheyenne!") and Albuquerque. At least when you're independent you can choose which crummy teams you play.
Schedule strength really isn't an issue when you understand a bit about BYU and the west. Which leads to myth #2:
Myth 2: Scheduling will be hard
This is true...sort of. Sure, scheduling will be harder, but it's not insurmountable. First you have to understand that when BYU plays road games in certain markets, the host team sells more tickets than normal. Sometimes a lot more. Getting home and away games with Pac-10 teams, UNLV, Fresno State, Texas schools, and others is much easier with this dynamic in play.
Then, money for home games comes into play. If BYU is taking the lion's share of the money from home games through ESPN deals or self-broadcasting, they can offer so-called "pay-day" games for lesser schools.
The Florida Gators are King of this strategy. You essentially pick an opponent to come in and get beat up by the home team, and send them packing with a six-figure check. These games become easier and easier for BYU to schedule as an independent with some TV dollars to flash.
That said, consider this formula: You play Utah State and Utah every year. Adding an annual game against Navy is a no-brainer for both. You're at three games there. Next, you add one or two Pac-10 schools each year and you're up to four or five.
Then you get your marquee annual game. You may have to play neutral site a lot of the time. But you get the Oklahoma game. USC. Texas. Penn State. BYU has been able to get these games in the past, it shouldn't be a major issue to get one a year as an independent.
Then you go back to the WAC/MWC bucket and get four or five games a year. It shouldn't be too tough to get UNLV, San Diego State, Fresno, Colorado State, Idaho, San Jose State, TCU, Air Force, Nevada, etc. to agree to home and aways with the Cougars. Some of those schools would even do two home and one away just to get the extra ticket sales BYU brings in those markets.
Now you've got 10-11 games with a couple spots to fill. Each year you shoot for a Big 12 team, possibly in Texas where you'll bring fans. Then, if you need another game, you work in a home and away with a CUSA team like Tulsa or UTEP, or go for a middling ACC, Big East, or Big Ten school.
Whenever you can't get a game in the formula, you back-fill with a I-AA (FCS) game (Weber State, Southern Utah) or Sun Belt team.
Myth 3: The Cougars won't have any better access to the BCS
That may be, but it's also not any worse. With Utah gone, and barring any major changes to the BCS formula, there's no chance the Mountain West gets an automatic bid. As an independent, if BYU were to end up in the top 10 in the BCS standings, they would be just as likely to get a bid in that scenario as if they finished in the same spot as a member of the MWC.
And, as an independent, BYU would have no strings tying them down to a conference if there is another realignment shakeup that could place them in one of the big six.
Myth 4: BYU will fall into anonymity without a conference
Sorry, but how would it be any different or any worse than now? They play in a conference that gets dreadful TV ratings because of the networks they play on. If anything, playing a wider variety of opponents will lead to more exposure.
"But what about conference championships!" More and more, that's irrelevant. If the conference champion was headed to the BCS, it might matter. But in the MWC it's the third-rate Las Vegas Bowl.
Myth 5: The Cougars won't have bowl options without conference ties
See the Vegas Bowl argument above. The MWC has ZERO good bowl tie-ins right now. There's no reason BYU won't get better bowls working without Wyoming, New Mexico, and UNLV.
Myth 6: The other BYU sports no longer have a home with the decimated WAC
Yep. As it looks now, without Fresno State and Nevada, the WAC wouldn't be a great home for the Cougars for basketball and other sports, but the West Coast Conference has already expressed interest in BYU.
At first blush that may sound like a step backward, but consider that in basketball Gonzaga gets far more respect than any MWC team, and St. Mary's is moving up the food chain rapidly, you'll find that it's not a bad place to be.
Plus, the WCC is a good fit from an institution standpoint, being made up primarily of religious institutions. Where BYU doesn't fit is size and geography. The current WCC doesn't have a school with more than 10,000 students and BYU is closer to 30,000. Additionally, Utah isn't adjacent to any WCC states.
But those details would likely be overlooked to land a higher-profile institution like BYU.
In the end, this is likely all temporary. More and more veiled comments are coming out of SEC and Big 12 country that more changes are in the works. Being independent puts BYU in a good spot when the next shakeup occurs.
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