Conference expansion • Cougars could accomplish program's goals in new-look conference.
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BYU to the Big East.
When the idea first flew across public consciousness, it seemed like a bad one. Like a turrrrrrrrrible one. Like a final option born out of complete and utter desperation. Well … who was it who said in life you need either inspiration or desperation?
Maybe you can have both.
People who care about Cougar athletics are, and have been, hopeful that BYU would find a way to get into the Big 12, not just in football, but in all sports. That option seems more like a castle in the sky at this point, a castle that, had it been grounded in reality, might have been tough to storm.
The Big East, under certain circumstances, could be, if not a better choice for BYU, at least an advantageous one. And there are 10 happy reasons why.
The story goes that the league, after losing Syracuse and Pitt to the ACC and West Virginia to the Big 12, is opening its door to Boise State, Air Force, Navy, SMU, Central Florida and Houston. Throw in other football participants Louisville, UConn, Cincinnati, Rutgers and South Florida, and that lays out a diverse league with an automatic qualification into the BCS. That's benefit No. 1.
No. 2: Playing those schools wouldn't be a killer. If BYU found itself in the Big 12, it likely would get its head kicked in for years to come in football. In better seasons, the Cougars might land in the upper half of the conference, but actually winning it seems unimaginable for the foreseeable future.
Landing atop the Big East would be much more reasonable and doable, which would mean BYU would not only be playing in a league with automatic access to a BCS bowl, it would have a decent chance of actually taking advantage of it.
As an independent, the Cougars basically have to go undefeated for that kind of opportunity, and even then it wouldn't be guaranteed. BYU has had one undefeated season in its history. Playing the percentages, that's not the way to go, not the way to bet.
What the Cougars have been rather adept at is No. 3: winning conference titles. They repeatedly did exactly that under LaVell Edwards, and they've done it under Bronco Mendenhall in leagues that aren't all that much different, competitively speaking, from what the new Big East would be.
If BYU and the other reported teams joined, at No. 4, the Big East could be divided into two relatively convenient divisions: the West and the East. The Cougars then wouldn't always have to travel 2,000 miles for road games, and, No. 5, they could foster strong rivalries with teams like Air Force and Boise State.
Think about the prospects of No. 6: an annual regular-season-ending rivalry game with Boise, home and away. That thing could roll into an intense November affair punctuating all that had gone on in the preceding months and, in good years, determining who would go on to a BCS bowl. A game like that, No. 7, might generate big-time national interest, which could help address one of BYU's original reasons for going independent: exposure.
Under this scenario, No. 8, the Cougars could play league games in the West, in the South, in the North, and in the East, giving their fans from all over the country a chance to see them play in person. And some of those conference matchups, No. 9, would be attractive to television, as well.
There might be less money generated from BYU's access to TV deals in the Big East than directly from ESPN, but gaining the tallest pile of cash was never said to be one of the Cougars' top motivations for leaving the Mountain West.
No. 10: Sailing into an uncertain future, BYU would have a home, a place to belong, a league that would regularly fill out its schedule from September through November, with chances to play a couple of terrific nonleague games, and membership in a BCS conference that would include the Cougars in the case of a superleague take-over in the years ahead. As an independent, BYU could get frozen out.
Questions remain about what to do with sports other than football, what to do about BYU's TV network, how to handle potential Sunday-play issues if other sports were on the table, and how the football-generated finances would be shared around the league.
Not simple and far from perfect, BYU to the Big East is secondary, still, to an invitation to the Big 12, but the idea makes more sense than it might have seemed at initial glance.
GORDON MONSON hosts "The Gordon Monson Show" weekdays from 2-6 p.m. on 97.5 FM/1280 AM The Zone. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @GordonMonson.