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Going Solo: BYU Reportedly Leaving Mountain West, Going Independent in Football & Joining WAC in Other Sports

Update (1:03 pm MST):  The Salt Lake Tribune says it's official, BYU is going independent in football.

Maybe conference realignment isn't over after all?  It appears that our old WAC nemesis BYU might be leaving the Mountain West Conference to go independent in football.  The Cougars will reportedly rejoin the WAC in all other sports (BYU vs. NMSU in the WAC?  With UTEP in Conference USA?  Is this the bizarro world?).  

First, Jeremy over MWC Connection picked up the story off of a sports talk radio show in Salt Lake.  Then, the Colorado State Athletic Department "tweeted" it.  Now, Andy Katz and others are reporting that it is all but a done deal.  With Utah moving on to the Pac 10, BYU might be doing that it thinks is best to keep pace.  Playing San Diego St. and UNLV can't compare to Utah playing USC and UCLA every year.  

According to Katz:  

BYU is moving closer to leaving the Mountain West Conference, becoming a football independent and re-joining the Western Athletic Conference in all other sports by a Sept. 1 deadline to withdraw from the MWC for the 2011 season, multiple sources said Wednesday.

"I'm not sure how it could stop now unless BYU gets nervous," said one source with knowledge of the situation.

I'm not going to write a 3,000 word post on this because with conference shifts anything can change, but I do have some initial thoughts on what this would mean for UTEP if it happens and I'd love to hear Miner fans perspectives on this.

Quick Thoughts on How this Could Impact UTEP

  • No Impact at All:  Conference USA weathered the massive storm of this summers conference realignment mayhem.  I'm betting the most likely result will be that the league would stand pat, with 12 teams.
  • The TCU Effect:  TCU, who abandoned the C-USA for the MWC, is probably seriously regretting that decision today.  The Frogs are now in a league that might be without Utah and BYU within a year.  Maybe, the grass isn't always greener.  The addition of Boise St. does nothing to offset the loss of the entire Utah market along with the passionate fan following of Utah and BYU.  The only real question now is whether or not TCU will attempt to rejoin C-USA.  It makes sense for them to try and it makes sense for the C-USA to listen because TCU would further solidify the leagues presence in Dallas, provide a consistent power in football, and make the C-USA West even more Texas-centric.  If TCU comes in, who goes out?  Or will the C-USA look to add two teams so that nobody has to get the boot?  Everybody's favorite Memphis writer, Dan Wolken, thinks that if the C-USA wants to add TCU, it might make sense to drop Marshall or UTEP.  

"It's time for the school's leadership to find a better answer than its current uncomfortable existence in C-USA. There are some good schools and good markets in C-USA, but there's also some schools that don't really fit (UTEP, Marshall anyone?)"

Is his scenario possible?  Yes.  Probably?  No.  The Texas schools in the C-USA West have been together for a long time now.  Rivalries have formed and it makes far more sense for SMU and Rice to play UTEP than it does for them to play UAB, Southern Miss, East Carolina, or Marshall.  

  • Does UTEP Consider Joining a Depleted MWC?  The C-USA has been good to UTEP and really with no BYU and Utah, the only reason UTEP would consider joining the MWC would be to realign with New Mexico. Likely?  No.  Bob Stull said several times during the summer that UTEP was happy in C-USA.  I'd personally rather play SMU and Houston than Wyoming and San Diego State.  New Mexico will be a player though, not with the weight of TCU, but don't be surprised of rumors fly about UNM and TCU being looked at by the C-USA.
  • My Dream Scenario:  The C-USA pursues UNM and TCU, reforms the East and West Divisions, and stays at 14 schools.  Is 14 too many?  Not really.  The divisions would look like this:  The West would have UTEP, New Mexico, Houston, Tulsa, Rice, SMU, TCU.  The East would have Tulane, USM, ECU, Marshall, Central Florida, UAB, and Memphis.  Each school would play six divisional games and two squads from the other division on a rotating basis (one home and one away).  

    Well, if I go any further into this I'll probably regret it when BYU comes out in an hour and says this is all bull.  We'll know soon enough...