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Provo • While the country will celebrate Independence Day on Monday, Brigham Young University's football program officially marked its breakaway from the Mountain West Conference on Friday.
The Cougars are now an independent in football, and a member of the West Coast Conference in basketball, baseball, women's soccer, women's volleyball, men's and women's tennis, men's and women's golf, and men's and women's cross country.
BYU's softball program joins the Western Athletic Conference, while its men's and women's track programs and men's and women's swimming and diving programs will join the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, which already hosts its men's volleyball program.
BYU's longtime athletics rival the University of Utah celebrated its move to the Pac-12 with a big to-do at the Capitol on Friday, but the Cougars let the day pass with little fanfare in Provo.
There were also no tender farewells from either side BYU or the MWC as the Cougars left a conference they dominated like few, if any, schools have dominated a conference in recent memory.
That ship sailed long ago. The school has been making plans for football independence and finding a landing spot for its other sports for almost a year now, so July 1 merely made matters official and ended the countdown clock on the WCC website for BYU to join.
"It was the best possible move for us at that time," said BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe. "And I see it that way still."
Thanks to the WCC's acceptance and a two-year agreement with the WAC to provide football opponents, Holmoe said the transition has gone more smoothly than anticipated.
"It feels good to be independent [in football]," he said last month. "It is nice to be able to have the freedom to do the things that you think you need to do to improve the program. You are limited when you are in a conference, because you have conference partners. In the Mountain West Conference, you are one of nine schools that had input into what you do in policies and procedures. ... In our conference, there were just a few that had the same visions of what they wanted to accomplish as an athletic program. That was the University of Utah, and TCU."
TCU has one more year in the MWC before it leaves for the Big East, but will still play the Cougars in football this season, Oct. 28 at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Holmoe said he and Utah athletic director Chris Hill are in agreement that the Utes and Cougars should continue to play each other in all sports at least once a year.
"They like it, and we like it, and I think that [the rivalry] will be as intense, if not more," he said.
As for the MWC members the Cougars are leaving behind, Holmoe acknowledged that some feelings were hurt and it may be awhile before longtime rivals such as Wyoming, New Mexico, San Diego State and UNLV agree to schedule the Cougars again.
"I think you will see it happen in other sports before football. But if we want to play a [MWC] team, and they say no, it is kind of OK," he said. "No big deal."
BYU leaves the MWC having won 140 of 355 regular-season and conference tournament championships nearly 40 percent of the available titles since it began in 1999. Utah had the second-most titles, with 49.
"We don't have a bail-out plan," Holmoe said. "Our vision right now is to make this be great."