The most absurd news to come of the absurd college football scheduling debate is that the Mountain West Conference was re-evaluating whether it wanted to still play BYU.
I picture BYU administrators e-mailing that article with notes like “LOL” and “r u serious? Lmbo.” BYU, of course, has been smashing those Mountain West Conference teams for its entire existence. BYU had such little regard for them that they left the conference.
Now the jilted ex-lover is going to say goodbye? Please.
The most humorous part of the exchange was MWC commissioner Craig Thompson saying that they had to re-evaluate BYU due to “strength of schedule” reasons and, bam, right there, he was proven to be a fraud and an idiot.
The SEC and ACC are not playing BYU because they are a cartel trying to keep the money to themselves. It has nothing to do with strength of schedule. I don’t need to repeat BYU’s recent record, link to their beat down of Texas or remind you of their Heisman and National Title to prove that.
You know how I can prove it? Because if BYU joined the Big 12 tomorrow – without having played one more game – they would suddenly fulfill the SEC and ACC’s requirements for a “Power Five” team.
The college football playoff has become a fiasco before it has even started because the sport now has little to do with the sport and everything to do with money. The Big Ten Network is expanding into New York. The SEC Network is trying to take over the South. ESPN is forking over boatloads of cash for the four-team playoff.
Every administrator in college football right now is simply running an angle to maximize profits and revenues. It’s less a sport and more a Wall Street-type game of Risk. The four-team playoff is not going to last because it doesn’t maximize profits. Once they get a taste, the playoff will be expanded. Whether that is to eight teams, or the true 16-team playoff I want, it’s getting bigger.
Before that happens, there are a lot of pieces in flux.
The Power Five conferences are trying to ensure it stays at five – that’s why ACC athletic directors would rather play each other than true non-conference games. That’s why SEC athletic directors are acting like they can only play 9 games against Power Five competition, instead of looking at 9 as the minimum.
The MAC, Conference USA and Sun Belt conferences are content to get the scraps and collect paychecks by being the whipping boys of September.
The Mountain West Conference holds on to its false reality that it will somehow become a major conference even though three of its top four programs – BYU, TCU and Utah – are gone and Boise State is receding back into the abyss.
That leaves the BYU and the American Athletic Conference trying desperately to prove they belong with the Power Five. The AAC has already made clear it will match any stipend or pay-for-play increases the Power Five go with it. The salaries for Frank Haith and Kevin Ollie show the league’s members are ready to pay. BYU is a Power Five football program in all but name.
Why will BYU join? Here are 9 reasons:
1) They already have a scheduling alliance
When the AAC and BYU announced they would be playing each other in the first Miami Beach Bowl, AAC commissioner Mike Aresco described a “quasi-alliance” between the league and BYU for future schedules. In 2014 and 2015, BYU has three AAC teams on the docket.
While it is not formalized like the Notre Dame-ACC alliance, it important to note because it makes BYU’s eventual entrance into the league easier. BYU is very happy with its agreement with the West Coast Conference for other sports, particularly basketball, so they would only need to join the AAC for football. There would be no hesitation on the AAC’s part about adding BYU into the fold.
2) ESPN loves BYU, tolerates the AAC
BYU is believed to make between $800,000 and $1.2 million for every home game thanks to a deal with ESPN. That is a lot of money and shows why BYU is so far above the MWC. ESPN will pay $800k for San Jose State at BYU. How much do you think it would pay for San Jose State at Utah State? $8.
Even though the ESPN-AAC relationship got off to a bad start, they are partners for the near future. While the AAC’s goal is to score a better contract down the line, ESPN’s goal is get a return on investment. And considering it’s paying a relative pittance for the AAC right now, building the league up right now would be like found money.
Think about it – an East Carolina/UCF Thursday night game could draw about the same viewers as Virginia Tech/Georgia Tech, except it would set ESPN back about 1/1000th the cost.
BYU is a proven commodity to ESPN because of its national following. Right now, they control BYU home games. If they join the AAC, ESPN would also control most of BYU’s road games. We saw when it moved BYU at UConn to Friday night on Week 1 that ESPN would take advantage of that arrangement.
3) BYU needs good games in November
This November, BYU will play Middle Tennessee State, UNLV, Savannah State and Cal. I can’t imagine anyone who follows or roots for BYU finds that acceptable.
Regardless of the college football playoff, it was always going to be difficult for BYU to find good November opponents as the 2014 schedule was put together several years ago. Now, it is even more difficult. It’s ultimately the main reason why Notre Dame joined the ACC, as its 2010 season ended with Western Michigan, Navy, Tulsa, Utah, Army and USC.
By joining the AAC, that problem is gone. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that November visits from Houston, UCF or Cincinnati are more appealing than UNLV or Savannah State.
4) Both need better bowl games
The bowl system should be dead. We should have a real playoff. But we don’t. And the bowl system is still broken.
When the realignment wheel stopped spinning – and the first indication of the Power Five’s cartel plans – the bowl games were largely Power Five versus Power Five team. BYU and the AAC were left with so few options that they are now playing each other in 2014. BYU is a good bowl team. So is Navy. The combination of BYU, and Navy, and the other AAC teams will help when the bowls are realigned again after the current cycle, which lasts between 3 to 6 years.
Just as with the AAC’s television contract, every move is about the future – the AAC needs to be positioned for better bowl games and so does BYU.
5) Access to the New Year’s Six
Under the current arrangement, BYU’s chances of playing in a New Year’s Day bowl game are practically zero. If they join the AAC, those chances skyrocket exponentially as one non-Power Five conference team is guaranteed a berth every year. If BYU won the AAC, they’d have a very good chance of playing in the Cotton or Fiesta Bowl. That’s better than the Poinsettia Bowl.
6) AAC can provide BYU the national schedule it craves
One of the reasons BYU went independent is because, like Notre Dame, it has national interests thanks to its affiliation with the Mormon Church. Playing 90% of their games west of the Mississippi does them no good.
The AAC has very few things going for it but one is that it features a lot of teams in major markets across the country. If they join the AAC, BYU could play in Dallas, Houston, Memphis, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Tampa, Orlando and Cincinnati in the span of four years.
That helps recruiting. That helps engage alumni. That helps the program.
7) Strength of schedule improves for all
BYU is a high quality team. The AAC is fighting for respect. By adding BYU to the fold, the entire conference gets a bump, as does BYU from having a more fully-formed schedule as opposed to a diet of below-average MWC teams through November.
8) Army may need a landing spot too
No one has been talking about Army because the football program has been so miserable lately. It’s not like anyone asked Mike Slive if Army counted as a Power Five-worthy team. However, it may reach a point where Army has to join a conference to remain a viable FBS team.
Like BYU, Army would only join the AAC for football and has been a target for the AAC/old Big East for close to a decade now.
While Army would add little in the way of football prowess, it would bring a ton of clout in terms of awareness and political clout. If the Power Five tried to break away and left the conference with Army and Navy in the dust? Something tells me that wouldn’t go over well in Washington.
9) They cannot crack the Power Five without each other
BYU is not a Power Five conference team right now. The AAC is not a Power Five conference right now.
Together, they may not be either. But they’d have a chance. We know for a fact that, separately, they do not.
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