BYU Declares its Independence

On Tuesday BYU announced it is severing ties with the Mountain West Conference and going independent in football. The purpose behind the move, as the Cougars set off to chart their own destiny, is to bring about greater exposure for BYU and its football program.

Coach Mendenhall learned Tuesday that his program will be leaving the Mountain West Conference in 2011. Coach Mendenhall, who heads one of the top five winningest programs in the country over the past four years, is supportive of the move.

"I support our administration's decision, and I think there will be a tremendous chance for exposure for our program," said Mendenhall. "More details will come tomorrow I'm certain. I think there will be a new conference scheduled with our A.D., and so he'll give you all the details, but as far as I'm concerned I'm supportive of it and anxious to support the team in a new situation."

Following Tuesday's practice, Coach Mendenhall gathered his team around him and announced that BYU will be going independent. The reaction from the players was overwhelmingly supportive as excitement and smiles could be seen on the faces of all the Cougars.

"I think they cheered and they kind of went right back to it as well," Mendenhall said. "They don't have any more details than I do. All I did was pass along that in 2011 we'll be independent and there will be a press conference tomorrow and the details will be forthcoming. So that's really all I've inquired and all I've told them."

"Everyone was pretty excited," Braden Brown said. "I was actually kind of shocked, but I think it will be a great opportunity for our team."

J.J Di Luigi had a similar reaction.

"We haven't really known too much about it, so right now it's kind of a feeling of shock and it's very exciting," Di Luigi said. "There were a lot of smiles and a lot of cheers."

As for BYU's schedule next season, the Cougars already had scheduled games against Utah, Texas and Oregon State. The rest of the schedule has not been finalized but is currently being worked on.

"The only thing that I've been told so far is there will be some elements of existing WAC partners, which would be a portion of the contract, but then a national schedule," said Mendenhall. "Basically east coast to west coast trying to get as many quality opponents from as many parts of the country as we can get to continue to promote our program and generate excitement for the teams we are playing which, I think, will be exciting."

"I'm excited about it because now we get to see what kind of competition we get to play," said Jameson Frazier. "We want to play the best around and now this is a chance for us to do just that. I think things are going to work out in the end. I'm excited to play."

As far bowl games, Coach Mendenhall said he is confident that BYU will have bowl tie-ins every year.

"The BYU brand and the BYU team and the BYU production is a marketable thing, and I believe – and I would guess – that as the details come out that'll be proven again..."

With both BYU and Notre Dame being private religious institutions, and with BYU now following in Notre Dame's footsteps of independence, the thought of establishing a rivalry with the likeminded Irish is an exciting one for Coach Mendenhall.

"I would love a long-term series with Notre Dame," Coach Mendenhall said. "I think that would be a great one. That's what's fun now is possibly of who you would like to play and develop some natural rivalries and learn more about different parts of the country, and add more to maybe more the college experience for these kids. The chance to have choices like that, yeah, I'm excited about that."

"It's going to help spread the word about BYU," said Frazier. "Everyone knows about Notre Dame and Notre Dame has all sorts of notoriety by going independent. They have that big contract with NBC and play big games televised on TV and all that. I think this what they're trying to do is make that BYU brand better known. I mean really, this gives BYU a great chance to get the word out. This is what BYU football is all about. It's about getting the word out about what it is we represent."

Redshirt freshman wide receiver Cody Hoffman, like his Cougar counterparts, expressed excitement about BYU's future as an independent program.

"I think we're going to be able to get the word out and gain more respect," Hoffman said. "We'll get more exposure and get to travel different places. It will be a whole new experience for us. I like it a lot more knowing we'll be able to go up against bigger schools and bigger programs. We'll have more competitive games and will have to bring it every game. I'm really excited about it. It's different and it's time for a change and that's what we're looking for. We're going to blow it up."

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