BYU conference realignment? All about the Money

Even as MWC presidents meet today to discuss possible expansion plans amid all the fuss about the ACC expansion and the constant chatter about the various possibilities of BYU's realignment with a BCS conference, we evaluate our chances based on reality - MONEY.

All Cougar fans fervently want BYU to be part of a larger, more prestigious conference and to participate in the money machine known as the BCS. But is it a hope based on reality? That's the $64,000 question. Since we do not have access to information needed to make an informed evaluation, we often resort to wishful thinking. I know I do.

Only BCS conference athletic directors, school presidents, TV executives and their BYU counterparts have the information necessary to analyze our chances of moving on.

However, of the various issues impacting BYU's desire to move to a BCS conference, the most vital would seem to be:

1. BYU's academic standing and compatibility with other conferences (PAC 10 and BIG 12) 2. BYU's lack of graduate school standing 3. BYU's religious and social distinction 4. BYU's perceived lack of diversity (read: racial diversity) 5. BYU's athletic standing and prowess 6. MONEY

To cut through the fog surrounding these issues, we compiled the following observations based on publicly available information and numbers anyone with a library card can confirm:

1. ACADEMIC STANDING: BYU's academic standing should NOT be an issue. In the PAC-10, BYU is rated behind only Stanford, USC, and Berkeley, in a virtual tie for fourth place with UCLA. In the BIG 12, BYU would occupy the lofty standing of being the highest rated school academically.

2. GRADUATE PROGRAMS: If a lack of graduate education is a major issue, BYU does not qualify. While we are not the lowest in terms of actual numbers, we are in last place of either conference if we look at graduate school enrollment as a percentage of undergraduate enrollments. This would probably not have any impact in the BIG 12, but may in the PAC-10. While this is a non-issue to athletic directors, this apparently matters to university presidents. And remember, the presidents are the ones making final decisions on realignment.

3. RELIGIOUS & SOCIAL ISSUES: Some have made issue with BYU's religious affiliation and simple edict it will NOT play any college sports on Sundays - particularly in the PAC-10. Again, we don't think this is a negative issue with athletic directors. Only two or three basketball games were scheduled on Sundays last year in the PAC-10, and if BYU were to be involved, such schedules could have been easily changed. It has no impact on Football and many other sports. Again, this is apparently an issue primarily of concern to some university presidents, but not others. But with schools such a Berkeley, it could well be a stumbling block. This is clearly a "wild card".

4. LACK OF DIVERSITY: This is an issue not many people have mentioned, but racial diversity could be an issue.

5. ATHLETIC STANDING: BYU can compete against anyone. BYU's athletic programs are superb and getting better. I remember bringing a business associate to Provo for THE game 15 years ago when Miami was rated #1 in national football polls. Detmer and company looked like world-beaters. My friend was astounded by the game, stadium and the gorgeous setting. He was also blown away by the campus, the facilities and particularly the people. The Sears Cup only confirms our dedication to an excellent program.

6. MONEY: Will BYU's invitation to a BCS conference bring enough cash into the coffers? If this issue is resolved, I believe all the other issues will quietly disappear. Maybe I am a cynic at heart, but I think that BYU will be invited if the money is right, university presidents notwithstanding. If BYU could bring a ton of cash to the negotiating table, it would be an instant insider.

Yes, BYU brings added attendance to nearly everywhere they play. For USC and UCLA games, for example, BYU would probably increase attendance at those games by 12,000 - 15,000. Stanford and Cal games could potentially mean 8,000 - 10,000 added tickets sold. Ditto for Arizona and Arizona State games. But that is only because those stadiums are big enough to hold the additional crowd. For Oregon, Oregon State, and Washington games, BYU brings nothing. Those stadiums are perennially sold out anyway. For Washington State, it means little. That school is so isolated among the potato fields that relatively few BYU fanatics would attempt to negotiate the two-lane highways leading to that inaccessible school.

From a TV market standpoint, it's difficult to say what BYU would bring to the table. The Salt Lake City - Provo market is quite small by national standards. The big question is how many more viewers in Southern California would watch a BYU - Arizona State game played in Tempe, for example. Only the TV execs have the answers to that question. In any event, will added attendance and TV make up for the loss of shared revenue from the schools?

At any rate, if the major reason to add two teams to the PAC-10 is money, adding BYU and/or Utah does not necessarily add a great deal to their bottom line. As BYU fans, we look at the situation emotionally. BYU wants to join a BCS conference, but the cold hard money facts are that it is unlikely we fit in their plans right now - all the hype notwithstanding.

Of course, there's the possibility the PAC-10 may find itself as the only major BCS conference with only 10 teams and, from a competitive standpoint, may be motivated to expand to 12 teams. The Big 12, on the other hand, will only invite BYU if another school leaves that conference. If that were the case, BYU would likely be a shoo-in. But unless something unexpected happens, will not see a school leave the BIG 12 because of the monetary penalties associated with such a move. And while schools like Baylor may not he contributing anything to the conference, the political hurricane associated with its ouster may make any attempt to do so insupportable. But that too could change in the future.

To the question the PAC-10 might add other California schools, not to worry! They'd never add a San Diego State or a Fresno State. Anyone who knows anything about the University of California System and the California State College system knows that UCLA and CAL would NEVER allow a "state college" into their ranks. Besides, San Diego State's athletic program is virtually bankrupt, financially speaking. To PAC-10 presidents, inviting such schools into their fold is like asking to be infected with smallpox.

There is always the hope for a football playoff. It's much more likely than most people think. Here is why. First of all, people want to see the "championship" game. They are less interested in games for fifth and sixth place. It is only a matter of time until corporate sponsors stop throwing money into this gluttonous pit. When that happens, you'll see a return to the traditional PAC Ten and Big 10 rivalries in the Rose Bowl or some form of a playoff system or a combination of both.

In any event, the best thing that we can do short term is WIN, WIN and WIN BIG! Beating USC, Stanford, Notre Dame and an undefeated season this year should secure an at-large invite from a BCS bowl.

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