There have been reports that the Big East is courting BYU. Bronco even mentioned it in his press conference, which seemed really strange after the BYU coaches and administration’s cone of silence in regard to conference realignment talk during discussions with the Big 12. Why did Bronco break this code? Was he going off script? Was he trying to signal to the press and fans that something is imminent? Why? Why?
Before I completely lose it, here are five questions about whether it would be a good idea to join the Big East in football. I am assuming (and this may be completely wrong) that BYU would, like has been reported with Air Force and Boise State, only join for football and not for the other sports.
1. What does joining the Big East actually do for BYU?
The biggest advantage is easier access to the BCS than independence, membership in the MWC, or membership in a better football league (like the Big 12). The Big East is pretty wide open in football, with the program to watch being Boise State the minute they enter the door. Let me put it this way: I can envision a much better shot at multiple BCS appearances as a member of the Big East than I can if the Cougars joined the Big 12.
The big question about BCS access is whether the Big East will keep its BCS AQ status after 2013 (discussed more below).
2. Would the money be better?
Depends. Some reports show membership in the Big East as being less profitable than independence. I think eventually, yes, especially if conference realignment makes independent scheduling of late-season match-ups harder. But that’s a tough call, especially since we don’t know for sure exactly what BYU is grossing right now.
3. Would TV access be better or worse than independence?
Again, it depends. As we’ve all learned, it’s all about Tier 3 rights, baby! If we’re playing Rutgers in New Jersey, will BYU fans outside of Utah get to see the game?
Using the Big East home games for this weekend as an example, Pittsburgh on the road at Louisville is on several regional networks and online at ESPN3. South Florida at Syracuse is a Friday night game on ESPN2.
I can say this for certain: there would be less nationally televised games on the big ESPN networks (assuming BYU can’t keep its contract with BYU), but access would definitely be better than the MWC. But many fans outside of Utah might still have to jump through hoops to catch all the games.
4. Is the Big East stable?
No, but neither is the Big 12. I think the SEC, Pac12 and Big Ten have solidified their places in the college football landscape, and everyone else is scrambling not to be left out. I don’t believe the Big East is in as bad a mess as some say. The same doomsday scenarios were played when Virginia Tech, Boston College and Miami left the Big East after the 2004 season, and while it made the Big East a mediocre football conference, they kept their card to the big kids’ table.
But can the Big East even keep it’s BCS status after a new deal is negotiated (starting in 2014)? Excellent question, but I think it can and will if BSU officially joins and they can add a handle of decent football programs. But that’s pure conjecture on my part.
5. If BYU doesn’t join a conference soon, are they going to be left out of the Super Conference realignment? Will they become irrelevant?
This is the pivotal question. Are Super Conferences imminent? I don’t think so, but many smart observers do, with a Super Conference playoff the gold at the end of that rainbow. And if you’re not in, you might as well be played FCS.
I know being left out of a Super Conference landscape scares a lot of BYU fans, and I’m sure the administration is keeping that in mind as well. If the entire system changes to the point that independence is no longer viable, the freedom of football independence could become a shackle.
Conclusion: Without, admittedly, knowing all the facts, I think BYU should hold for now. I don’t think the Big East will become any less desperate in next 12-18 months, so there’s no need to jump yet. And if Super Conferences are truly inevitable, there’s no guarantee that the Big East will even be invited to that party.