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Why BYU Went Independent - A Former Player's Perspective
First let me say, I am not a sportswriter. In fact, I am not even a writer, I am a photographer and while this is typically a photography blog, I have to say something. BYU Football is in my blood. For those of you who come for the Photography articles, this isn't one of those days, you can skip this post. It is just one man's perspective to shed some light on why BYU's move for Independence was so fulfilling, refreshing and inspiring.
I was a walk-on Fullback for 5 years there (1991,1995-1998) and in terms of who I am today, I give that experience major credit as one of the most fond and treasured of my life, despite the fact that I spent most practices getting beat up. It made me tough, determined and gave me tremendous drive. I am very excited to see this move, even with the risk of catastrophic failure. For my photography friends who are still reading, this is the equivalent of quitting your day job to start a full time photography business without any promise of succes. Scary as h---, and equally as awesome and rewarding, only on a scale thousands of times larger. The stakes are high.
So....why did BYU go Independent?
The short answers:
Is this so bad? At first glance it sounds greedy, but there are some real reasons why this is a good move. All the haters out there would be thrilled if their teams were in the same situation and did likewise. If this article makes you hate me or BYU more, then please, hate away. You probably work at some 9-5 job and enjoy your employer deciding everything for you, what you do, where you work, how much you make, like to hear about the raise or promotion that will never come, when you can eat lunch or take a potty break. You will never roll the dice like this, so it is hard for you to get how awesome this is and I do not expect you to.
BYU will make 5-6 times what they did before and they control their own destiny, schedule and television rights. Will they play for a BCS championship? Nope. Even with a perfect record? Not anytime soon. The awesome part is…they don't care. You gotta love that attitude.
In 1996, we went 14-1 and ended up playing in a great Cotton Bowl game. It was one of the most cherished memories playing at BYU and I was grateful for the opportunity. But I also distinctly remember sitting down one Sunday afternoon with my roommate, another BYU Running Back, Chris Stevens, as the BCA Alliance (which became the BCS) offered Texas an invitation to the Fiesta Bowl instead of BYU. We had a better record, we were ranked higher, and the guy on the TV said "Texas is a better fit" which to me meant, "This is our party and we invite whom we like". That didn't sit right with me, but we didn't have a choice. Over the years, I have seen this "we don't really have a choice" answer being played over and over and over, from TV rights, to splitting revenue, to whom BYU played, they never had a choice. The MWC never seemed to want to budge or accommodate BYU on some of these issues, despite being one of the better teams in the league. BYU had to ask itself "…what in the heck are we doing here? This isn't going anywhere. Why is this league controlling every aspect of our finances, exposure and growth?" I can only wonder now what the MWC Commissioner is thinking now that all those wins and potential BCS qualification are walking out the door with BYU. Deserves you right, maybe you should have tried to work with them a little.
My guess is BYU got sick of the BS and they are willing to kiss all the promises of a conference championship or national title goodbye for the prospect of freedom.
Why even talk about this? Because whether you love them or hate them, it was down right gutsy. If Utah did the same thing, I would think it would be gutsy too. I'm not a huge fan of Utah to put it mildly.
BYU is interested in taking off the handcuffs. While many will argue this was a bad move. Not so, when it all plays out, I believe this will turn into one of the biggest moves BYU has ever made financially as well as for pure exposure. BYU's Athletic Director Tom Holmoe was one of my coaches at BYU when I was a freshman. I have met up with him a few times over the years. He is a very good and very smart man. The guy knows what he is doing and he doubt he would pull the trigger without having something concrete laid out. Tomorrow's press conference will show this. I also want to say I have no inside information and this is just one former player exercising his 1st Amendment rights.
Short layman's recap on the saga since I posted the original thread a few days ago, in case you missed it:
BYU had plans to go independent (it was quoted as "a done-deal" with non-football sports like basketball and volleyball competing in the WAC. The league BYU currently plays in, the Mountain West, tried to scuttle this by luring 2 WAC schools to the the Mountain West (essentially trying to sabotage the deal so BYU couldn't play there). It almost worked.
To make it even juicier, the WAC had a $5 million dollar penalty agreement in place with all WAC schools before Fresno State and Nevada were bribed into the MWC, which meant Fresno State and Nevada would have to have paid this money for leaving early. One of the schools, I believe Fresno, is now claiming it didn't sign the agreement, and even better, it is only in effect if BYU has an agreement with the WAC. Confused yet?
Today, BYU announces that they are going independent with it's non-football schools competing in the WCC, a division you, I and no one else has really heard of, but it turns out to be a conference of religious schools such as Gonzaga, (which you and I have heard of) and others, and they have some great Men's Basketball Teams.
Something a lot of non-MWC fans do not understand was that the Mountain West had a stranglehold on the Television Rights of Mountain West (and BYU) games. It also meant the television (and bowl game) revenues were being constantly being split among all MWC schools (even the one's with lousy records), AND BYU couldn't even broadcast their own games (even for non-football sports which didn't have anyone else broadcasting them because of this agreement). It also meant half or more of BYU's games couldn't be watched, anywhere. I know on many occasions BYU asked for some recourse on this problem, and the MWC/Cable companies wouldn't budge. Thats just lame.
Something else a lot of non-MWC fans do not understand is that BYU has it's own television company. This isn't a matter of technology or lack of resources, not about being arrogant, being stuck up, or selfish, etc. BYU got tired of being someone else's you know what. If you have ever been employed by a mean boss, you know the feeling. Heck, we all know the feeling. You get sick and tired of busting your butt for a promise that never comes true and you begin to wonder… "Why in the world am I here doing this? How many more lies will I tell myself/listen to before I wake up, get angry and take some chances?"
How much was BYU making on this Mountain West agreement? I believe the number was $2 Million dollars. How much money can BYU make now that it can retain it's own broadcasting rights as well as rumored lucrative a partnership with ESPN for a few games? The estimate is between $10-12 Million. With potential revenues from broadcasting other sports (although it won't be nearly as profitable as football) and bowl games (often worth a few million depending on where they land…..is this something that takes a lot of thinking?
I also doubt this is the end of this. BYU's brazen move will undoubtedly, embolden other schools to do the same. It may not be soon, but mark my words, give it a few years, if BYU pulls this off, a select few, like the Texas', USC's, even Hawaii with it's unique situation will ask "If BYU can do it….why not us?".
If enough schools do this, it is possible that there would be somewhat of an "Independent Alliance" where many of these Indie schools play each other. It opens up some very curious questions:
1. What happens to the BCS if several powerhouse teams also go independent in the next 5-7 years?
2. Why would BYU want to go to a conference such as the Big 12 (or 10 now) unless they could offer more television and bowl money or freedom than they would get as an indie? Im not seeing this.
3. What happens to Fresno State and Nevada if BYU Football and the WAC actually DO have some type of arrangement to play a certain number of games? (We will find this out tomorrow, I am expecting 3-4 WAC opponents on the 2011 schedule).
4. Will BYU partner up to play Notre Dame? What about Army or Navy?
Ill be at LES in Prove, Utah this weekend to watch BYU take on Washington. Should be a great game.
If you made it to the end of this thread…what do you think about BYU football going Independent?