Faced with a September 1 deadline to make a decision on leaving the Mt. West, BYU today announced that they will indeed proceed to become an independent for football, and a member of the West Coast Conference for all other sports.
The change is effective for the 2011-12 school year.
The change effectively ends the Mt. West's move to become the seventh BCS conference, OR displace the Big East, as the loss of both Utah to the Pac-12 and BYU is more than adding Boise St., Fresno St., and Nevada can compensate for, at least in the near term. And that's even if the WAC isn't successful in forcing the Bulldogs and Wolfpack to stick around an extra year, in lieu of large exit payments.
BYU's scheduling is bound to shake things up across the west especially in years to come, but it probably keeps the Utah-BYU rivalry alive. This could have ripple effects in Pac-12 schedule making. The quest for opponents for the Cougars, especially over the latter 2/3 of the season, puts a new light on everything for WAC, Pac-10, and Mt. West teams.
The Cougars reportedly will get assistance from ESPN in putting together both their television package and their future schedules. ESPN has signed to show a number of BYU games over the next eight years. That has to become a competing element when the Pac-10 goes shopping their product to networks as well, as a number of game time slots have now already been committed.
Oregon St. already has an upcoming series with BYU on the schedule in 2011 and 2012. Currently scheduled to be the season openers, the Cougars are scheduled to visit the Beavers in 2011, with OSU making a return trip to Provo in 2012. A benefit for the Beavers, and the Pac-10, is that at least these games are probably going to be locked into the ESPN schedule.
The impact on other sports will be significant as well. Gonzaga, long the big dog in the WCC in basketball, now has an immediate threat in BYU, long a potent program. And the WCC presence will be a basketball recruiting aid for the Cougars on the west coast.
And with the WCC at 9 members, how long before Seattle U., currently an independent after their recent return to DI, an obvious addition, makes it into the WCC? The WCC suddenly becomes a much more serious player in recruiting for basketball that the northwest Pac-10 schools will have to account for.