Oh what could have been. The Mountain West Conference has been the top Non-BCS conference in the nation over the past few years and it's top teams (Utah, TCU, BYU, Air Force) have rivaled and in some cases been flat out better than other BCS Conference top tier teams. With the addition of Boise State, can you imagine what this conference would have been like a year from now had they also been able to hang onto Utah and BYU. The Beehive State's two college flagship programs have, unfortunately for the conference, decided to take their talents to South Beach......metaphorically speaking. The Pac-10 invitation was too good to pass up for Utah and BYU's bid for independence has it's risks and negatives but will bring the program more money and exposure. More on that in a minute. Right now as a fan of the Mountain West Conference I'm just stuck in a state of grieving. This has been a conference gaining respect and it's sad to me that it has taken a step backward. TCU and Boise St. will dominate for years to come and I can't help but mourn the loss of the rivalry that was developing between TCU and Utah and TCU and BYU, not to mention the Boise St. rivalry that would have been obvious between the Idaho school and the 2 Utah schools as well as the one Boise has already developed with TCU. Another point to mention is the additions of Nevada and Fresno St. to the conference recently. Granted they might not/probably would not have been invited had BYU not been planning to bolt the conference, however it would be cool to think of those guys in there as well. That would have been 7 teams capable of being pretty good year in and year out. Coulda, shoulda, woulda. It would have been fun and there may have been a chance of the conference replacing the Big East in the BCS conferences. It's not to be though and I'm a bit bent about it.
A couple of other points:
- BYU's football independence leaves me with mixed feelings. The Mt. West tv network deal is a joke and the conference teams were stupid to agree to it in the first place. It was never going to be a network that was viewed by very many people. BYU was one of the biggest losers of the conference tv deal as it had probably had the most tv exposure prior to the "Mountain" Network. Now they have an ESPN deal that will be a whole lot better. No conference means they'll be playing for bowl games and national respect. Not playing for a conference championship is going to mean less to play for each year. BCS bowls are not guaranteed even with a very good season. Nothing less than an undefeated season would make that a possibility and BYU hasn't done that since 1984 and their national championship. So that can't be part of the thinking in doing this. Supposedly they will try to ratchet up the level of their competition (Notre Dame has signed a deal with the Y and Texas will play them a couple of times) but that means undefeated seasons will be even tougher to accomplish. Still even though a BCS bowl hasn't been their past and probably won't be their future, I at least will enjoy the fact that I can find their games on t.v. next year.
- Utah's move to the Pac-10 makes sense. You can't turn that down as much as I hate to see them leave the Mountain West. Still, if the Utes essentially become a team that loses 3-5 games each year and become something like a middle of the road Pac-10 team I wonder if all that tv money and BCS money they'll share will be much consolation for fans that have been used to seeing them be part of the annual national BCS buster conversation. It's entirely possible they can compete regularly with the Pac-10 teams. They have done really well against them in cross-conference competition in the last 5 years. I think occasionally they can even compete for a conference championships. But the days of undefeated seasons are gone and they will be just another hungry Pac-10 team trying to take the king (USC) down.
- I feel bad for Boise St. They thought if they joined the Mountain West they would become part of an emerging elite league. They've upgraded but it could have been more. Having said that, the same point I made for Utah applies here to Boise. If they don't dominate the Mt. West like they did the WAC and there are no BCS bowl invites in the next 5 years then I would think their fans will think they should have stayed where they were.