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BYU Goes Independent in Football

After watching its bitter in-state rival hit the BCS lottery with an invitation to the Pac-10, BYU wasted little time in making a dramatic move of their own.

The Cougars are leaving the Mountain West and going independent football-only in the fall of 2011.

The Western Athletic Conference has given the okay for all other BYU sports to return to the WAC -- which it formerly belonged to for almost four decades. The move is pending approval from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the owner of the University.

There can be little doubt that Utah's move to the Pac-10 drove this action by BYU. The Utes are expected to bring in an average of $15 million a year in TV revenue as a member of the Pac 10 - far more than the Cougars are getting from the Mountain West.

Right now BYU only gets around $2 million a year from the Mountain West TV package.

The Cougars have had their own TV network BYUTV up an running for over three years. Programming for the channel consists of church, university and athletic events, and the channel is available in over 40 million home in the US. As an independent, the Cougars are free to make their own TV deal with ESPN or Fox as well as expand the live sports programming available on its own network.

The move will have ramifications for both the WAC and the Mountain West, and especially for Boise State. The Broncos only moved from the WAC to the Mountain West this summer -- in large part because in had a higher probile thanks to BYU.

The Mountain West reacted by inviting WAC members Nevada and Fresno State to jump ship with Boise St. Meanwhile there are noises that the WAC is putting out feelers to Boise State to see if they would like to jump back into the league.

BYU felt they were painted into a corner when Utah made the move to the Pac-10 and when the Big12-2 made it clear that they were not going to search for any replacements for the departing Nebraska and Colorado.

Once can only guess why the WAC would make a deal to take BYU in all sports but football. Perhaps they believe that the Cougars will find independent living too hard in a few years and will be willing to return to the fold.