There are Pros and Cons with all big decisions. In light of all of the recent BYU / MWC / WAC developments, I think that many of the Cons of BYU going independent at this juncture are for the most part being overlooked. So I am going to point them out.
Yesterday I published an article about what BYU's schedule could look like if they went independent. Things have changed. As part of their deal with the WAC, BYU would play 4-6 WAC teams in football each year. Before Nevada and Fresno St. ditched the WAC, that would have been fine.
1) Utah State: instate "rivalry" that BYU frequently plays anyways.
2) Nevada: a quality bowl eligible team that would usually be a win for the Cougars
3) Fresno St: same as Nevada.
4) Hawai'i: mediocre team, but allows BYU to shedule an extra game (probably a home one) every other year.
Now, that Nevada and Frenso St are gone, who do you replace them with? The next best teams are Idaho and Louisiana Tech. Who here is going to be excited for biannual trips to Moscow, Idaho or Ruston Luisiana?
Now from a national Perspective, BYU has 4 garunteed cupcakes every year. That might be fine if they could fill the other 8 games with quality or BCS opponents, but we both know that there is no way that is going to happen. My guess is that they won't be able to get more than 4 of those 8 games with good teams. That means that their independent schedule would not be any better, and probably worse than it would be if they stayed in the MWC. The only difference would be that they trade the dregs of the MWC for the leavings of the WAC and trade playing TCU and BSU for middle of the pack Pac 12 teams.
Personally, I'll take the MWC schedule, thank you.
In recent years (2005, 2007, 2008) BYU has had some difficulties filling their non conference schedule, having to bring in FCS teams last minute. True, some of that has to do with opponents reneging on their agreements to play the Cougars, but if they have difficulty filling 4 games, how much more difficult is it going to be to try and fill 12 or 13, especially during the final 8 weeks when everyone else is in the middle of conference play?
I have confidence that BYU would be able to field a full schedule, but I doubt it would resemble anything like the one most fans are hoping for.
Welcome to the Acme Dog Food Cereal Bowl here in beautiful Bismarck North Dakota. It should be good contest between the 5th place Sunbelt Team, the University of Luisiana-Lafayette vs. Brigham Young University who has taken the place of the 6th place MAC team due to only 5 of the 13 MAC teams being bowl eliglble.
Almost all Bowl games now have conference tie ins. With BYU's schedule, they will probably have to go undefeated to get into a BCS game. If they drop a game along the way, they will be forced to look for bowl games in which the associated conferences do not have enough bowl eligible teams to fill their bowl allotment. This will mean games against a lot of 7-5 and 6-6 non AQ conference teams, probably in locations where fan support will be marginal at best.
As much as I've heard Cougar fans complain about the Las Vegas Bowl, it has been good to the Cougars. It is a chance to play a Pac 10 team and is with in a days drive of the majority of BYU fans. Even if the Cougars have a bad year and get sent to the Pointsettia Bowl, they are still a days drive from Provo and get to play a Pac 10 team (or Navy) in sunny San Diego. Even the lower bowls are pretty good. #3 plays an ACC team in the independence bowl. The New Mexico and Armed Forces Bowls may not be ideal, but they are still in familiar areas with a descent population of BYU fans to help suppoert the team and fill the seats.
In short, unless they get into a BCS bowl game, the Cougars bowl prospect will, in a word, suck.
It is hard to be an all conference linebacker if you are not in a conference. That may not seem like a big deal to you, but that is because you've probably never made an all conference team.
When I played football in high school, our teams #1 goal was to win our 7 team league. We wanted to be the Golden League Champions. All other football goals or ambitions came after that. Winning individual awards, beating individual teams, including our rivals, were not as important to us as being Golden League Champions. It was our biggest single motivator.
It is kind of hard to win a championship if you are the only one on the field.
At the end of each practice we all gathered around the coach, took a knee while the coach addressed the team. When he was finished, we would all huddle togeather, put 1 hand in the center of the group, and then a team captain would say "Champions on three, ready 1 2 3..." and we would all yell "champions". I have a feeling that if we were to yell "good season" or "win most of our games" or "finished ranked in the top 20" it wouldn't quite have the same effect.
Now it is true that BYU could aim for the Crystal football every year, but lets face it. They aren't likely to get a chance to even play for it any time soon, especially if they go independent. Plus, I've found that goals are much more effective if they are 1) attainable and 2) rely on me for the attainment of the goal and not something out of my control, like a bunch of BCS conference champions losing at least 1 or 2 games.
Football isn't the only sport in which the WAC is inferioir to the MWC. BYU has a very good athletic program and is nationally competitive in many sports other that football. Sticking them in a 6 team conference made up of the leftovers of one of the weakest conference in D1 athletics is a serious down grade and slap in the face for all of the other sports programs. Some halve mentioned the WCC as a recipient of BYUs non football teams. That might be OK, except for the fact that the WCC doesn't have swimming or track and field. I'm not sure about swimming but track and field is a big deal for BYU and they regularly send athletes to compete on national and international stages. I sincerely doubt they would cut their swim and track teams just to up their basketball competition a little.
The MWC schools are all relitively close to BYU. Only TCU is more than a days drive away from Provo. The remaining teams in the WAC are spread across 5 time zones. That can ammount to a lot of travel. Especially when one remembers that BYU competes in 19 sports. Flying a team half way around the country (and world) like that can get expensive.
1) BYU's schedule could actually get weaker.
2) having to schedule 12 teams every year is a lot more difficult that scheduling 4, especially when the extra 8 have to be scheduled when everyone else is in the middle of conference play.
3) No conference tie ins means stupid bowl games (the kind that would make fans long for the chance to return to the Las Vegas Bowl)
4) No individual awards (all confernce teams, players of the week, etc)
5) No championship to play for (the BCS championship doesn't count, because even if they winn all their games, they still aren't going to have a chance at playing in the NC game.
6) All other sports are downgraded.
7) Travel gets a lot more expensive for most of BYUs 19 sports teams.
Could BYU's probable move to football independence turn out to be the programs best move since hiring Lavell Edwards? Maybe, but comes with a high risk and a high cost to all other sports.