The biggest news in quite some time around the state of Utah has been a proposed 32-team mega conference which would include what is now the Mountain West Conference, Conference USA and the Big East, as well as schools from other conferences.
The most exciting news of all to local fans at first was Utah State being mentioned as a possibility for this super league.
But would you believe that BYU is now the big school in the conversation? Everything about the Cougars supposed move to the Big 12 Conference over the past several months has been bandied about from here to the moon.
Now move over, for there’s a new rumor in town, and well, around the country.
According to a CBS Sports.com report, some of the schools who may be a part of this proposed alignment have suggested BYU should be one of the 32.
Of the 32 teams, this proposed mega-conference would be broken up into four geographical regions.
At first glance, the casual observer would take one look at this monstrosity of an idea and scoff with his painted nostrils tilted up toward this air of disbelief.
But on further observation, the league makes sense. The proposed conference–which was first reported by the Boston Globe after it had obtained a document–would split the 32 teams into the Big East, Central, Mountain and West Divisions.
Boise State, Hawaii, UNLV, Nevada, Fresno State, San Diego State, Utah State, San Jose State (or BYU)
Air Force, Wyoming, Colorado State, New Mexico, UTEP, SMU, Tulsa, Houston
Marshall, Memphis, Southern Mississippi, Tulane, UAB, Rice, Temple, Louisiana Tech
Big East Division
Louisville, UConn, Rutgers, Cincinnati, South Florida, Central Florida, East Carolina, Navy
Earlier reports had San Jose State being invited, but with two schools already in California as part of the early proposal–and just one in Utah, it almost makes more sense to include BYU.
The Cougars are finding that the road to independence is fraught with uncertainty, games against weaker schools than what they played in the MWC and a rich, hefty contract with ESPN, not to mention the recent additions of multi-game deals with half the schools they were playing before they left the Mountain West.
In a few million ways, joining this mega-conference makes more sense than even the deal BYU was reportedly seeking with the Big 12–though neither BYU nor the Big 12 will comment.
Here is more fuel for the fire: BYU is already playing Utah State, the two schools have a natural rivalry, and the Cougars have inked new multi-year deals to play Boise State and Hawaii over the next few years.
BYU would have to change little to its schedule to accomodate this new proposed mega-league and would still have the ability to schedule big names like Utah.
In other sports, the Cougars are already in the West Coast Conference, but what could make the difference in this particular alignment is that it is football-only.
The mega-conference, as of now, would not apply to any other sport–though the Big East is now becoming notorious for charging exorbitant exit fees, and BYU would surely balk if the Big East included any future stipulation.
The Cougars’ big sticking point–as everyone knows–is the inclusion of their global communications empire, also known as BYUtv. The network reportedly became a sore spot in negotiations with the Big 12 Conference, and was notorious for causing issues with the Mountain West, when BYU was still a member.
Should the commissioners from the MWC, CUSA and Big East agree that bringing in a high profile program like BYU is worth tacking on BYUtv to select broadcasts, you would have to think that even in a short time period, a deal could be made.
The most important point to this proposed mega-conference is the possible guarantee of a BCS berth, which according to reports would be awarded to the conference champion, determined after the four division champions meet in a four-team playoff.
Each team would play seven games against division opposition–and four non-conference games–where the four division winners would play in the semifinals, with the winners of those two games meeting for that coveted BCS spot.
The only difference between this proposed super conference and what is already in place in the larger BCS conferences is that there would be more of everything.
In all actuality, both Utah State and BYU would get what they want out of this deal–and you could argue the same is true for Boise State.
In essence, BYU would still retain its religious private school profile–which it obviously covets in all other sports–and still appease the football-loving masses who don’t want to play teams they consider to be lesser competition.
In the end, though, it’s up to the schools to decide which fit is best. For Utah State, a move to this proposed mega-league is a great deal, and a testament to the hard work the football program has done to upgrade itself.
But for Cougar fans, most feel that this new era of independence has already put their school woefully behind the University of Utah.
The thing is, joining this league could give BYU the ability to play catch-up in the college football world in a short period of time–as it would be competitive with all the teams mentioned–and get back the credibility the school lost by going independent.