BYU Confirms WCC Move, Football Independence

Here is the BYU press release on the school departing the Mountain West while taking football independent and moving all other sports to the West Coast Conference:

BYU WCC press release

PROVO, Utah (Aug. 31, 2010) — Brigham Young University today announced it resigned from the Mountain West Conference, effective June 30, 2011.

Additionally, the University announced its football program will compete in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision as an independent beginning fall 2011. BYU has accepted an invitation to join the West Coast Conference as a full member for men’s basketball and other sports, beginning the 2011-12 athletic season.

Further information will be provided at a press conference scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 1 at LaVell Edwards Stadium beginning at noon (MT). The press conference is available only to credentialed members of the media.

The University will have no further comment until the press conference Wednesday.

Jay Drew of the SALT LAKE TRIBUNE and Jon Wilner of the SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS were the first to break the landmark news for the West Coast Conference.

Wilner also noted in his report today the effect the move by BYU may have on the WAC and the Mountain West conference:

The move, which takes effect for the 2011-12 season, changes the face of major college sports in the western third of the country — weakening the Mountain West (BYU’s current home) and strengthening the WCC, whose members include three Bay Area schools: Santa Clara, St. Mary’s and USF.

(It’s impossible to overstate the significance of this development for the WCC, which is about to begin renegotiating its ESPN contract.

(Yes, there are scheduling questions to be answered — BYU doesn’t play on Sundays — but my guess is that BYU and WCC officials have already worked through them.)

The move is also a blow to the Western Athletic Conference, which had hoped to provide a home for BYU’s non-football teams even though it lost Fresno State and Nevada to the Mountain West.

There may be some additional hangups in the transition, as noted by Drew of the Salt Lake Tribune on Twitter: “Sources tells the Tribune that the 12 sports BYU has that overlap with WCC will go there. Unclear where softball, track and swimming end up.”

As I’ve said all along, I think this move is primarily due to BYU rival Utah landing a spot in the Pac-10 while the Cougars were jilted by the same conference.

When Utah becomes a full-fledged member of the Pac-10 and the conference settles on a new TV deal, the Utes are reportedly due to score a $15 million TV windfall per year.

Meanwhile, had BYU stayed in the Mountain West, it would have been relegated to a mere $1.5 million in annual television revenue.

In the end, BYU showed it would rather set out on its own than allow for that discrepancy.

UPDATE: The Mountain West released the following statement about BYU’s departure:

Since its inception, the Mountain West Conference has worked strategically to grow and strengthen the league, in order to position itself at the highest level of intercollegiate athletics,” said MWC Commissioner Craig Thompson. “Our Board of Directors’ diligent exploration of options to advance the membership’s objectives is ongoing. This includes conversations with our television partners to address issues of mutual importance, as well as determining the optimal configuration for the Conference and investigating the possibility of various collaborative alliances. We look forward to the future with great excitement - particularly welcoming recent additions Boise State, Fresno State and Nevada into the Mountain West.” 

A carefully-worded quote by Thompson to be sure. Exactly what “collaborative alliances” means I have no idea.

Sounds a little like a thinly-veiled signal that absolutely, positively nothing is off the table - including breaking contracts - when it comes facilitating a television cash grab. TV money is responsible for all of the recent realignment by various NCAA schools, with BYU’s departure from the MWC certainly no exception.

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