Just last year, BYU made the revolutionary decision to break away from the Mountain West Conference and go independent. While critics of the move slammed BYU for not being able to handle a schedule, losing all hopes at competitiveness, and squandering their chances at a real financial gain, the joke seems to be on them and BYU seems to know exactly what they are doing. The first five games of this years season will be televised nationally on ESPN or ESPN 2, and there is a guarantee of at least two other games that will be broadcast by the world’s leader in sports. This is critical to BYU’s ability to recruit, and is actually the principle reason for BYU leaving the Mountain West Conference.
Why they had to leave: The Mountain West conference has strict broadcasting rights on all of their conference’s games and controls with an iron fist the distribution of those games leaving little to no control to the school’s themselves. Last year’s team was broadcast on ESPN just twice last season including the New Mexico Bowl game. Compared to this year’s seven scheduled televised games, going independent seems like a small price to pay for that kind of publicity. Another big benefit to going independent was the schudling that they now are able to achieve. This year BYU will play against Texas in what is sure to draw a large national fan base, as the two schools are both among the largest cult followings in college football. BYUY will rely on a close game and positive commentary throughout for a positive result, but regardless of the outcome, having millions of people watch your games is always positive.
Why the criticism: Many skeptics are still criticizing the decision because they feel that the bowl season is the only time that really matters in a college football season, and BYU’s decision to leave the conference could eliminate them fom bowl contention. This reality is supported by other independent schools and their lack of appearances in the high profile bowl games such as the Rose Bowl, National Championship, Fiesta Bowl, or Sugar Bowl. The Cougar Nation certainly feels that any chance of BYU at a National Championship went down the drain with the chloice to go independent, and recent history shows that may just be the case.
The good news: Aside from national television audiences, national championship chances, and broadcasting rights, BYU has maintained itself a location for talented athletes independent of conference or prior results for the last three decades. If BYU’s attempt as an independent power fizzles away as nothing more than a bad choice at a bad time, the school’s recruiting roots vwill still allow the school to spring back up once rejoined in a new conference. The better news is that if BYU can avoid all of the negative and somehow manage a winning record, a bowl appearances, and national v audiences, then their recruiting will sky rocket, and BYU may just accomplish what Cougar fans across the nation dream of: that elusive National Title opportunity. They’re not there yet, but this “bad” decision that could “kill” BYU maybe just resurrect them to the national spotlight and prior glory.