Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Both the MWC and the WCC would be good landing spots for BYU

The current realignment stalemate revolves around BYU and their decision on whether or not to go independent in football.

If they do go independent, then in all likelihood they are going to have to leave the MWC in all other sports. With a Wednesday deadline to make a decision (that could very well come this afternoon), all the talk this week is about where BYU and what is their best option.

I'm not going to pretend to know much about the economics of college football, so in this forum we are strictly talking about what the best outcome is for college hoops and Dave Roses's program. And as we know all too well, that probably plays a (very) minor role in the decision making process.

Jeff Eisenberg says that the best option for BYU basketball is to stay in the Mountain West Conference, and I tend to strongly with that sentiment. Let's face it -- the MWC is a better league than the Pac-10 this season, and it was last season as well. With programs like New Mexico (who has signed Steve Alford to a ten year deal), San Diego State, and UNLV being joined by Fresno State and Nevada -- two programs with their own storied, and in some cases notorious, basketball programs -- it is quite possible that the MWC will continue to battle with the Pac-10 for West Coast supremacy. Don't forget about Boise State, who made the NCAA Tournament in 2008.

If BYU does stick around, then don't be surprised if the MWC also adds Utah State, bringing another very good basketball program -- and even more of the Salt Lake City market -- into play. That, my friends, would be an absolutely loaded basketball conference; one that would be difficult to label as a mid-major if they routinely put three and four and five teams -- which is a real possibility -- into the Big Dance.

But if the Cougars do decide to go independent, Andy Katz says that joining the WCC is a better move than becoming a member of the dead conference walking WAC. He makes some compelling argument. For starters, BYU is always going to play Utah State, who is a perennial NCAA Tournament threat (two at-large bids and four tournament overall in the last six seasons), so by joining a different conference, they aren't going to be losing a quality resume game. And by joining the WCC, BYU would make the league a perennial two-bid conference, with the potential -- with St. Mary's and the recent successes of teams like Portland, San Diego, and even upstart Loyola Marymount -- for even more.

BYU is much bigger -- 33,000 students, while no one in the WCC has even 10,000 -- and could complicate things with the religious aspect -- BYU is a mormon school, while seven of the eight WCC schools are Catholic while Pepperdine is affiliated with the Church of Christs -- but the WCC is still the Cougars best option.

And don't forget about the league's ESPN deal, which allows Gonzaga to get quite a bit more national exposure than BYU gets in the MWC even if it is coming around midnight on the east coast. Hey, I'm watching.

BYU is going to be alright now matter what decision they happen to make.

The real question is what happens to everyone else. Do teams like UT-San Antonio fill in the holes in the WAC? Do we get some amalgam of the non-BCS schools forming a super-conference across the country? Will Fresno State and Nevada be able to afford the $5 million they may be forced to pay the WAC?

Whenever BYU makes their decision, the trickle down will be fun to watch unfold. Stay tuned.


Anonymous said...

WCC has had 18 NCAA teams in 10 years. It's a multi-bid league more often than not. BYU makes 3 (already done) or 4 bids very doable.

Rob Dauster said...

My point wasn't that the WCC can't get more than one bid. It was that with both BYU and Gonzaga, the league is virtually guaranteed two bids at the start of the season. Right now, that is only true on Gonzaga. As good as St. Mary's has been the last few years, only three NCAA Tournaments this decade.

I probably could have worded that sentence better. Apologies.