BYU to Big East: Understanding the Factors and Comparing Other Candidates

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BYU to Big East: Understanding the Factors and Comparing Other Candidates
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

There’s talk that BYU should join the Big East.

Proponents of the move cite BCS access (at least until 2013) and conference scheduling as primary pros to support the move. With many conferences going to nine game league schedules, getting quality opponents, especially at home, will get much tougher.

But there are downsides. Namely:

 

TV Revenue

The Big East conference probably won’t generate enough TV revenue to come even close to matching what the Cougars make in their exclusive deal with ESPN. The Big East was offered just $110 million a few months ago, BEFORE they lost three teams. Divide that by 12 and it doesn’t come close to what BYU gets Indy.

 

Exposure

Currently BYU is set to play on ESPN more than half its games annually. Think that isn’t important and a major factor? Ask Boise State how it helped their recruiting.

In a conference TV deal, BYU is one of 12 teams who vote, thus unable to affect much major change. Look no further than its struggles in the Mountain West.

So regardless of the details, it’s very unlikely BYU gets itself on ESPN 10 times a year in the Big East, and it’s likely the vast majority of the league’s games end up on second and third-tier networks.

George Frey/Getty Images

 

BYUtv

We’ve already seen this be a sticking point in conference TV negotiations, and it breeds bad blood (misguided or not) among conference members. BYU isn’t excited to jump back into a conference where its TV exposure (read ESPN network games) and use of BYUtv aren’t flexible.

 

Leadership

Big East Commissioner John Marinatto is considered by many to be inept at best and downright dumb at worst. For a BYU administration who were screwed by lies and poor conference leadership in Craig Thompson, this is a big issue.

 

Membership

The Big East can’t survive as it is. It must expand (and properly) to survive.

 

So who’s in?

Remember, it’s not the top of a conference that hurts it in terms of TV and BCS access. It’s the middle and bottom. It’s the Wyoming's and New Mexico's. The UAB's and Tulane's. Schools with little tradition, weak fan support, inferior facilities and poor on-field performance that are concrete shoes on the conference leaders.

Small markets don’t help either.

So here’s a breakdown of the Big East expansion prospects and how they stack up against each other and the remnant Big East schools.

Remember: The BCS will use 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 numbers to determine which conferences (no guarantee it’s six) get an automatic bid. The stats below use numbers from those years, with this year’s rank as of last week’s BCS ranking.

 

First, the Cougars

Top-25 BCS finishes, 2008-2010: 2 (possible third in 2011)

Average finish rank: 36

Average 2010 attendance: 61,381 (96% capacity)

TV Market rank: Colorado Springs No. 31

Enrollment: 34,000

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Summary: BYU is head and shoulders above the remaining Big East members and remaining non-AQ schools in terms of attendance and facilities. Only Boise State has seen better on-the-field performance in the last decade.

 

Boise State

Top-25 BCS finishes, 2008-2010: 4 (Likely fifth in 2011)

Average finish rank: 7

Average 2010 attendance: 33,269 (96% capacity)

TV Market rank: Boise No. 101

Enrollment: 21,000

Summary: Despite being in a tiny TV market, Boise State’s exposure to the country through regular ESPN weeknight games has made the program popular throughout the country. This program may be the Cougar’s future rival.

 

Air Force

Top-25 BCS finishes, 2008-2010: 0 

Average finish rank: 49

Average 2010 attendance: 40,093 (77% capacity)

TV Market rank: Colorado Springs No. 92

Enrollment: 4,400

Summary: The Zoomies have a national following and government backing. A decent program that is attractive to bowls. Strong candidate.

 

San Diego State

Top-25 BCS finishes, 2008-2010: 0 

Average finish rank: 84

Average 2010 attendance: 34,000* (48% capacity)

TV Market rank: No. 17

Enrollment: 33,700

Summary: *San Diego State’s attendance was way up last year because, for the first time in years, they weren’t awful. They don’t have their own stadium and have bad facilities. In light of comments the administration made on BYU’s departure from the MWC, and subsequent comments to the Big-12, San Diego State deserves the MWC.

Bob Levey/Getty Images

 

UNLV

Top-25 BCS finishes, 2008-2010: 0 

Average finish rank: 106

Average 2010 attendance: 20,612 (48% capacity)

TV Market rank: No. 32

Enrollment: 29,000

Summary: Certainly a good basketball school in a top-40 market—but that’s it. Poor fan support (in a city that should easily have great attendance) bad facilities and a complete lack of performance for decades makes UNLV a very weak candidate.

 

Houston

Top-25 BCS finishes, 2008-2010: 0 (probable top-25 finish this season) 

Average finish rank: 49

Average 2010 attendance: 31,728 (99% capacity)

TV Market rank: No. 6

Enrollment: 39,000

Summary: As good in numbers as any remnant Big East program. Small stadium compared to BYU, but right in line with current Big East facilities. And at least it’s full. Considering current success and great market size, Houston should be at the top of the list.  

 

SMU

Top-25 BCS finishes, 2008-2010: 0 

Average finish rank: 86

Average 2010 attendance: 23,515 (73% capacity)

TV Market rank: No. 5

Enrollment: 10,600

Summary: This program has a jaded history with little to cheer for in recent years. With small stadium, poor attendance and inferior athletic facilities, this program’s only benefit is the market it resides in, and the fact it plays in Texas and would be a traveling partner for Houston.   

 

Central Florida

Top-25 BCS finishes, 2008-2010: 1

Average finish rank: 76

Average 2010 attendance: 39,614 (88% capacity)

TV Market rank: No. 34

Enrollment: 50,000

Summary: This is a big school in a good TV market in good recruiting grounds. It gets nearly double the attendance of schools like SMU and since it’s only about 60 years old as an institution, it’s only going to get stronger. Given access to the BCS, this school could see a flourish similar to South Florida.

 

South Florida

Top-25 BCS finishes, 2008-2010: 0 

Average finish rank: 46

Average 2010 attendance: 40,849 (63% capacity)

TV Market rank: No. 19

Enrollment: 36,000

Summary: Considering its tenure as an FBS school, the Bulls are doing pretty well. A good TV market and solid recruiting ground helps. However, facilities are lacking. In the end, combined with Central Florida, these two schools would make for good travel partners and decent conference members.  

 

Cincinnati

Top-25 BCS finishes, 2008-2010: 1 (possible second this season) 

Average finish rank: 33

Average 2010 attendance: 35,067 (100% capacity)

TV Market rank: No. 29

Enrollment: 31,000

Summary: Cincinnati sometimes plays in Paul Brown Stadium (home of the Bengals) so their attendance numbers are over 100 percent capacity. For the most part, their attendance is weak. But it’s a top 30 market and the Bearcats have seen football success in recent years.   

 

Louisville

Top-25 BCS finishes, 2008-2010: 0 

Average finish rank: 71

Average 2010 attendance: 50,648 (89% capacity)

TV Market rank: No. 54

Enrollment: 15,000

Summary:  A much smaller school with limited success in the recent past. TV market isn’t great, but there’s support and expectation of program success.    

 

Rutgers

Top-25 BCS finishes, 2008-2010: 0 

Average finish rank: 52

Average 2010 attendance: 46,195 (89% capacity)

TV Market rank: No. 1

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Enrollment: 28,000

Summary:  Rutgers is an undervalued commodity in the conference shuffle. Decent attendance and good school size make it viable. And even though it doesn’t own the TV market, even a very small share of New York is a big deal.

 

UConn

Top-25 BCS finishes, 2008-2010: 0 

Average finish rank: 50

Average 2010 attendance: 38,248 (96% capacity)

TV Market rank: No. 52

Enrollment: 20,848

Summary:  Uconn has no tradition, as it’s relatively new to the FBS division. And it remains a distant outpost in Storrs, Connecticut. But at least it’s filling its stadium and is a top-five basketball school, for what that’s worth.

 

Hawaii

Top-25 BCS finishes, 2008-2010: 1 

Average finish rank: 81

Average 2010 attendance: 37,311 (75% capacity)

TV Market rank: No. 64

Enrollment: 14,000

Summary:  Hawaii may be a sexy locale, but that’s about it. Despite a BCS performance in 2007, the program has done little of note since, and doesn’t bring a big TV market or great attendance. And scheduling for the Warriors is a nightmare.  

 

A Bold Approach?

Now, let’s get really crazy here. Is there a way to gain the advantages of conference affiliation, while avoiding the negatives as well as some of the mistakes of the past (bringing bad teams with you to the MWC, Bad Commish, etc.)

What if BYU led the charge in creating a new conference? BYU and Boise State are ready and willing to work together. Could the two, aligned with ESPN, go out and pick the best teams available and create a new conference, effectively dissolving the Big East?

Some say that was what the Mountain West did. But they’re wrong. BYU and Utah brought along programs with poor historical performance, bad TV markets and lack of institutional support. This time around they can avoid that. Mostly.

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