You might say, "It's the system, stupid!"
So its not really the words of former President Bill Clinton, but we all know last week BYU took the somewhat unprecedented plunge into the independent abyss by cutting all football related ties with the Mountain West Conference and boldly going where only three Division I programs currently have gone before.
Those three schools? Two academies, Army and Navy, and of course, the spoiled, overrated Notre Dame Fighting Irish who haven't done anything since 1993 as far as I am concerned.
So why is it a big deal?
Not only do they risk not getting in to the BCS National Championship, which is what this is really all about at the end of the day, even though the Mountain West isn't a BCS conference, and they feel severing all ties will give them a better chance to prove themselves, there is something to be said about a sense of belonging.
Clearly BYU feels they are better than their soon-to-be former conference. I wonder what the remaining members think about where they stand? Kind of a slap in the face, however true it may be, if you ask me.
Look at BYU's 2010 schedule. Week 3 they play Florida State, a team similar to Notre Dame that ESPN, the media and those that matter, adore. Smart scheduling on their part. Their 7th game they play #4 TCU in an obvious important game that needs no hype or justification. Finally, the final week of the season they close out against #20 Utah, one of their biggest rivals, who will be leaving the conference after next season to join the new Pac-10, a lifelong dream of theirs, although I am not sure why.
Many people believe, depending on who you ask, that the loss of this annual in-state rival, is what began the wheels turning for BYU to take the bold move of going independent. Others claim they saw Texas' sweet, lucrative television deal, and already having one of those in place themselves, decided to literally cash in on it. Still more conclude that if BYU ever wants to be taken seriously again, like its 1984 all over again, they need to do something that gets them attention, and I'd say taking the Notre Dame path should just about do that.
Look at their schedules
Should BYU run the table, they would have beaten two top-20 teams in Florida State and Utah as well as a top 5 in TCU. Still, being unranked at the start of the season will hurt them and as Boise State found out one too many times, you have to be creative with your schedule to gain (even more) respect than they already get. As we've established, clearly BYU doesn't feel the love.
Should Boise State run the table, they will have beaten only #10 (at the time) Virginia Tech as a ranked team and possibly week 4 opponent, Oregon State should they finish the season hotter than expected. While Boise State beating Virginia Tech was a similar smart move as BYU booking the FSU meeting, as thrilling of a game last night was, one major win alone should not a BCS Championship game make.
BYU would have done more, yet they get left out in the cold. Also one has to consider, if the Mountain West was so great, and Boise State clearly thinks it is- seeing how they are joining it next year, then why is BYU leaving? Clearly BYU knows they have nothing to gain by staying and have outgrown the competition and conference and were wasting their time waiting for something that wasn't going to happen (or be allowed to happen due to the system).
Instead of leaving the conference, Boise State and BYU should have both stayed to further justified that conference. You could have had quite the little conference with two top 5 teams in TCU and Boise State as well as top 20-ish Utah, BYU and a former power in Colorado, who should have relocated here instead of the Pac-10.
A few more years of Boise #4, TCU #6, Utah #20 and BYU somewhere in between would have forced the BCS committee to take a look at their screwed up system. How is the Mountain West supposed to get better if Utah and Colorado leave for a likewise mediocre conference in the Pac-10?
Once BYU leaves, the only good thing the conference will have going for it will be Boise and TCU but what incentive does Boise State have to stay? How long before they get tired of being shafted? If they do make the BCS National Championship, and I half hope they do, it will be because they opened the season so high at #3 and got one good win (Va. Tech) to put them in the title game.
Why do I say "half-hope" they are in the title game? Similar to BYU-Michigan in 1984, while I'd like to see for history's sake Boise State's and Chris Petersen's efforts get rewarded for all eternity to show they at least made it, and to finally prove they can play with the Big Boys, screwing them over ala Auburn in 2004 might finally make enough people mad that we get a playoff system.
More importantly, I feel you should have to schedule harder teams than just one marquee in Virginia Tech, a so-so in Oregon State and then take care of your own subpar conference to make the Championship game as my table below will describe.
BYU gets proactive, Boise State should do the same
After it was announced that BYU would be an independent, they quickly aannounced a 6 game series with fabled Notre Dame and three game set with Texas. If they ever need any help filling out their BCS Championship resume, I am sure Southern Cal, Boise State, Miami, or TCU are just a phone call away, and you just know they are going to do everything in their power to book Utah every few years for old times sake.
Or Florida State, the "anytime anywhere" school of the 1980's, or "Thug U" (Miami) which has done similar historical rivalries with other schools in the past. This is what all the big programs do, Nebraska did it with Miami in the 80's and BYU is no different, just the latest to try the trick.
So what could a potential BYU schedule look like? Considering Notre Dame usually schedules a few Big Ten teams (note, the BCS likes Big 10 teams and ESPN will do their best to hype you up if you book their favorites). This year is no different with Purdue, Michigan, and Michigan State on the docket.
The only one that really matters here is Michigan, of course, since the ESPN idiots are living back in 1975 when Michigan was good, little do they know it will be years before they are relevant again. In fact, as much as I hate to say it since I loathe elitist Notre Dame, I predict they will be relevant and a perennial contender again before the Big Blue dud.
So BYU would be wise to definitely schedule them in a future match-up and now is the time since beating them is still considered a big deal, even though we all know its not. Doing so is sure to get BYU bonus points (take notes Boise!)
Next, BYU should schedule some crap 2nd tier Big Ten teams like Minnesota, Northwestern, or Illinois which would be similar to Notre Dame's Purdue (Illinois) or Michigan State (Minnesota) since they are on the same levels).
Finally, Notre Dame gets to cherry pick the best of the rest with wannabe-power Pittsburgh out of the Big Least #25 Stanford and of course, their rivalry in name only with the Probation kids, the Southern Cal Trojans.
In a similar move, BYU could potentially grab Pittsburgh or West Virginia from the Least since they are on equal footing, someone like a Cal or UCLA from the Pac 10 and Oregon to try and be on par with Notre Dame.
To compare to Notre Dame's method:
Illinois (both come from Big 10)
#7 Oregon (stayed in conference picked another worthy team)
Cincinnatti (same conference, former power)
#23 W. Virginia
Utah State (get to keep the rivalry and its a similar WAC team)
since its an indept. and BYU needs a breather, why not Weber State
UCF/Memphis (same conf. as Tulsa, similar weak team)
ND keeps their " academy rival" BYU adds them, Army, OR winnable game against fmr. MWC push-over of similar caliber like Air Force
So in all, should Notre Dame run the table they get two ranked teams and Pittsburgh which might as well be, who would be on par with West Virginia. In sum, BYU's fictional schedule would also have them beating two ranked teams plus #7 Oregon and really, it could be anyone from the Pac-10 I just chose them to better make their case.
You think this is fun, wait until every years is a guessing game/resume builder lke Notre Dame. Only with BYU I won't have to be sick of them. Who doesn't like a state that has a monopoly on recruiting, its own TV network, an 8 year deal with ESPN and the guts to challenge the system like BYU did.
Who doesn't like a school that stuck it to the system and became pro-active and took a page from Notre Dame's fairytale playbook? No longer are they the pedestal kids who get to claim themselves as the only real non-conference threat with stand-alone national TV games and trumped up schedules. At least now they'll have to share the spotlight with a worthy adversary.
Yes, I hope next year is just the beginning, a new beginning for BYU, and I think it will be.
Once Texas comes-a-calling I hope Miami, FSU, and Boise as part of these "bowl caliber" games like last night's Boise State-Virginia Tech, do too as BYU tries her best to make their case an annual one.
Boise State could learn a lot from them, if only they too left their conference first.
Information from ESPN.com, the Salt Lake Tribune, and wikipedia directly contributed to the content of this article.