Sports on TV • Standing alone is preferable to MWC/C-USA or joining the Big East.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
The announcement that the remaining members of the Mountain West and Conference USA will form a new league was fascinating because of what it didn't include.
It didn't mention the name of either league. It would seem to indicate that this is not a merger, it's the dissolution of both leagues and the formation of a new one. Which is important because that would mean the end of the current television contracts.
Say goodbye to The Mtn.
Utahns, of course, stopped worrying about that failed channel when Utah and BYU left the MWC. Both of them have gone on to better places.
The Utes have the incredible new Pac-12 TV deal, which kicks in this fall. It's not even worth detailing how much better off Utah is.
And BYU's contract with ESPN puts the Cougars light years ahead of anything the as-yet unnamed new conference is going to come up with.
It doesn't matter what kind of TV deal Air Force, UAB, Colorado State, East Carolina, Fresno State, Hawaii, Marshall, Nevada, New Mexico, UNLV, Rice, Southern Mississippi, UTEP, Tulane, Tulsa and Wyoming work out it doesn't matter which schools (Utah State?) they add it won't match the money or the exposure BYU is getting.
For that matter, there's serious question as to what kind of TV deal the reconstituted Big East is going to be able to work out. Dennis Dodd of cbssports.com wrote, "One industry analyst texted me saying the addition of Syracuse and Pittsburgh to the ACC alone will be worth more than a new Big East deal."
Both the Big East and MWC/C-USA are working from the same TV fantasy the WAC had when it expanded to 16 teams back in 1996.
The WAC went slightly crazy, claiming tens of millions of TV households because it was adding teams in markets like Dallas (TCU and SMU) and San Francisco (San Jose State). It even tried to claim Los Angeles because of San Diego State.
It was all baloney, of course. It doesn't do you much good if viewers in big TV markets don't care about your teams.
Ten of the teams in the 16-team WAC are also in the new MWC/C-USA league. And you've got to wonder if they're still delusional when UNLV president Neal Smatresk issues a statement hailing this "exciting development" that will create "television viewership from coast to coast."
Look at that list of schools. Do you see a big football TV contract in their future?
The new league has that in common with the Big East. New member SMU is still not a big draw in Dallas. Nor is Houston in Houston. Nor is Temple in Philadelphia. San Diego State has never been a big draw in Southern California. And Boise State is still in the 113th-biggest TV market in America.
Good luck with that.
And if automatic BCS bids go away as many football insiders expect Boise State and SDSU's membership in the Big East will look odder than it does now.
Don't get me wrong. The Big East, Mountain West and Conference USA all did what they had to in order to survive. The new members of the Big East will almost undoubtedly make more money than they did in their former leagues, and the eight remaining MWC schools may end up in a better place by abandoning their league and their current TV deal.
But neither alternative looks appealing compared to BYU's football independence and its deal with ESPN.
There are still serious questions about how that independence will work out in the long-term. But in terms of TV revenue and exposure in the short term, there's little doubt that leaving the MWC and turning down the Big East were the right decisions.
As for the Big 12, well, that's an entirely different column.
Scott D. Pierce's covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. His sports on TV column runs Wednesdays.. Email him at email@example.com