BYU Goes Independent: Can Mountain West Conference Recover?

Charlie O'ConnorCorrespondent ISeptember 1, 2010

PROVO, UT - SEPTEMBER 1:  Large signs hang outside Lavell Edwards Stadium where it was announced that BYU football will become independent in 2011 separating from the Mountain West Conference, September 1, 2010 in Provo, Utah. The remaining BYU sports will become affiliated with the West Coast Conference in 2011. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
George Frey/Getty Images

After much speculation, Brigham Young University officially left the Mountain West Conference.

BYU's decision came on the heels of an earlier attempt to leave the conference for the Western Athletic Conference. With their newly announced new deal with ESPN, BYU has officially entered the realm of "independent."

This leaves the Mountain West Conference in a tough spot. Before their abrupt exit, the conference was on the verge of becoming a borderline major conference.

BYU is a big loss, in both football and basketball. The Mormon University has won four football conference titles, and has made the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament for the past four seasons.

The departure of BYU ends any realistic talk that the MWC could turn into a major conference. But BYU's exit does not mean that the Mountain West is no longer the best of the mid-major conferences.

New Additions

The Mountain West loses BYU. But they will pick up three very solid additions in the next few seasons.

  1. Boise State has won seven out of the last eight Western Athletic Conference football championships. They also have won two BCS bowl games.  As strong as BYU has been in football, Boise St. is even better, and is truly one of the rising programs in FBS football.
  2. Fresno State has long been an elite mid-major football program. Since 1999, Fresno State has only missed out on a postseason bowl game once. The Bulldogs also won a College World Series in 2008, and are known for their strong baseball and softball programs.
  3. The University of Nevada is probably the weakest of the new additions, but they are also a solid program. They have been to five straight football bowl games, and won five WAC men's basketball titles in the 00s.

Remaining Teams

BYU exits the MWC, but numerous strong teams remain.

TCU leads the way. The school is one of the best mid-major football programs in the country. They played in their first BCS bowl game last season, losing to future MWC member Boise State. Utah will remain until the 2011-12 season.

UNLV, Colorado State, San Diego State, New Mexico and the Air Force Academy all have achieved varying degrees of success in the major collegiate sports as well.

BYU is not leaving a bare cupboard.


Brigham Young University is a strong program. And their loss will be felt by the Mountain West Conference.

However, when viewed in combination with the new additions of Boise State, Fresno State and Nevada, the Mountain West has actually improved overall.

BYU's exit will temporarily halt the Mountain West's quest toward major conference status. But they remain the best overall mid-major in the country, particularly in football.