BYU Football: Does BYU's Independent Status Make Sense for the Program?

Lou MartinContributor IIINovember 10, 2011

ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 28:  Riley Nelson #13 of the BYU Cougars runs during a game against the TCU Horned Frogs at Cowboys Stadium on October 28, 2011 in Arlington, Texas. The TCU Horned Frogs defeated the BYU Cougars 38-28.  (Photo by Sarah Glenn/Getty Images)
Sarah Glenn/Getty Images

BYU to the Big 12? BYU to the Big East? The rumors are plentiful, but the official invitations are non-existent. At least for now.

Such is the plight of the BYU football program, which, nine games into its initial season as a football independent, is on the fast track for eventual membership in a conference—or so pundits and fans want to believe.

Not so fast, Cougar Nation.

BYU’s position as an independent makes too much sense to be abandoned at this point.

A lucrative multi-year deal with ESPN and scheduled tilts with some of the country’s more storied programs have BYU sitting pretty in several aspects, including exposure and respectability.

Conference membership would lock the team into schedules with stiffer competition, which would expose the program’s on-field mediocrity and shrink its already-small chances of earning a spot at the BCS table.

BYU has always marched to the beat of a different drummer, a role that is better suited for independence, not the confinement of conference membership.

The school’s Honor Code and refusal to compete on Sunday sets it apart from other schools, makes it unique and revered. It’s these traits, and ones like them, that make independence the perfect fit for the school’s football program.

Cougar fans yearn for another national championship, but, let’s be honest: the 1984 national title was earned in an entirely different climate, one that didn’t include the BCS. As an independent or as a member of a conference, BYU’s chances of winning another national championship are slim and none.

Simply put, BYU is not a BCS-caliber program, nor does it show any signs of becoming one in the foreseeable future.

This is a good thing.

To be competitive at the BCS level, BYU would need to become more like the programs that are competitive at that level. Although naiveté wants us to bury our heads in the sand and think that the recruiting violations and cash and merchandising scandals associated with today’s college football environment are more the exception than the norm, logic dictates they’re not.

Becoming a BCS-contending program would require BYU to do what the other schools are doing. Would you want BYU to engage in these activities to get the quality of recruits needed to compete at the level of a BCS title contender?

It’s unlikely BYU will sell its soul to become competitive at the BCS level, which makes independence the way to go for now.

Conference affiliation equals conformity, and BYU is the antithesis of conformity. That’s what sets it apart from other schools, like a breath of fresh air after hours in a smoky casino.

Let's hope the powers that be at BYU do the right thing by staying the course and remaining a football independent.