BYU Leaves Mountain West Conference: Did ESPN Overstep Its Bounds?

Jeremy Lookabaugh Correspondent ISeptember 1, 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

BYU and its move to a football independent

Brigham Young announced its intent to leave the Mountain West Conference and become a football independent on Wednesday.

The school also disclosed it has a new-eight year contract with ESPN to broadcast its home football games.

The contract includes an annual minimum of three games on ESPN, ABC, or ESPN2, including games televised on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, and a minimum of one game on ESPNU.

"We have considered a move to football independence for about five years," said BYU Athletic Director Tom Holmoe. "The move was now spurred, he said, by rival Utah's jump to the Pac-10 Conference." 

Though the Cougars are now playing football as an independent, the other sports played at the school will move into the West Coast Conference.

It does boast a problem for the sports like track and field, swimming, and softball, because the West Coast Conference does not field those sports.

The football program is making the appropriate move to gain some exposure, putting themselves out there for the entire nation to see.


BYU's New Scheduling Contracts

BYU is a solid football team and has been so for many years. This contract with ESPN will allow them to schedule more competitive games outside of the small conference they use to reside in (Mountain West).

They now have contracts with both Notre Dame and Texas.

The school announced a six-year contract with the "Fighting Irish," who are one of three independent schools in  college football. Army and Navy are the other two.

Their contract with Longhorns is a three-year deal.

The games will alternate with next years game to be played in Austin, followed by the 2013 game in Provo and then back in Austin at the Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.

They are also looking to play every year against their long-time rival Utah Utes, though the two schools are in different conferences.

Scheduling is a big issue for independent programs, but Holmoe believes with the Cougars fan support and their style of play, teams will understand that BYU will travel to other venues.


Conflicts with leaving the Moutain West

The Cougars will not have an automatic bowl spot to secure after leaving the Mountain West Conference, nor will they be able to compete for a conference championship.

But the program believes the national exposure will allow them to play some top caliber teams and compete.

The eight WCC members are all private-faith based schools, which makes it a very good match for the school owned and operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.


ESPN Overstep Boundaries

The new eight-year contract with the ESPN Network signed with BYU helped the football program tremendously.

This contract gives the average fan an opportunity to watch BYU football games on a weekly basis.

In the years with Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young, BYU was televised week in and week out. This contract will bring the program back to this prestige of exciting college football.

As an avid college football fan who resides in the East coast, the opportunity to watch BYU on ESPN is something that excites me.