Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

18 Aug 2010

Fresno State Accepts Mountain West Invitation, Nevada Likely to Follow

Two things are certain regarding conference expansion: 1) When it happens, it happens very quickly. 2) Don't even bother trying to figure out what happens next.

It appears that Fresno State is about to accept an invitation to join the Mountain West, and Nevada is about to do the same. This comes the same day that the Salt Lake Tribune reported that BYU was a "done deal" to leave the Mountain West, go independent for football, and move to the WAC for all other sports. When it happens, it happens very quickly.

So now the question becomes this: is BYU still committed to leaving the Mountain West? Nothing is official yet -- would a stronger Mountain West convince them to stay? If not, then here are the current (well, future) rosters for the two conferences:

Mountain West

Air Force
[UPDATE]: Boise State - managed to forget them
Colorado State
Fresno State
New Mexico
San Diego State


Louisiana Tech
New Mexico State
San Jose State
Utah State

First of all, if that is the WAC, then the WAC is not a real conference. For better or worse, there will be more moves. Maybe UTEP gets pulled over (it makes sense geographically, but ... well, why would they go to that conference?), or others from Conference USA. Maybe UC Davis or Cal Poly or a Big Sky team moves up. Still, yikes.

Next, is the Mountain West through making moves? Do they move in on some of the better (and western) Conference USA programs to get to 10 or 12? Will that help their TV revenue? Oh right, don't even bother trying to figure out what happens next.

Posted by: Bill Connelly on 18 Aug 2010

22 comments, Last at 20 Aug 2010, 8:30pm by mm


by Dales :: Wed, 08/18/2010 - 9:13pm

Should not Boise be somewhere in your lists?

ps- one reason you might not be getting comments on this one is that the code is broken by your headline. It is almost at the max length of the "spam_custom" table, and when it auto-adds "Re:" to the front of it when one hits reply, it errors.

You should probably get your IT help to look at it. Giving folks, even through error messages, an idea of the table names in your database is generally a bad thing.

For what it is worth...

eta-- exact error message before I manually truncated the subject line was:
"user warning: Unknown column 'extra' in 'field list' query: SELECT cid, filter, style, status, scan, extra FROM spam_custom WHERE status != 0 ORDER BY weight ASC in /mnt/html/includes/database.mysql.inc on line 172."

by Dennis :: Wed, 08/18/2010 - 9:49pm

What would BYU gain from leaving the MWC, especially with Fresno St. and probably Nevada coming on board?

by mm (not verified) :: Wed, 08/18/2010 - 10:41pm

1) More national schedule. Because of its fanbase, it can likely get some decent home and away series around the country. This also probably gives it a better chance for an at-large BCS birth. This part is essential for #2.

2) More money. It has a bigger fanbase than any other team in that conference; that fanbase is also spread nationally. It should be able to sell a package of at least a few home games a year to a network for the money it would receive from the MWC. I'm not talking about a fortune; I heard it gets about $1.5 million a year in tv money from the MWC. Even if the 'new' MWC gets a boost, BYU should be able to get more than the per-school average of that conference.

3) Ego boost. In-state rival Utah just got invited to the Pac 10. From what I've read, it has been painful for them to contemplate remaining in a non-BCS conference while their rival was moving to the big-time.

by mm (not verified) :: Wed, 08/18/2010 - 11:34pm

Heh, I should say that I wrote this before reading Bill Connelly's other article on this subject, which hit pretty much the same points.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 08/19/2010 - 12:27am

I think it is very doubtful that being independent improves their chances of getting to BCS Bowl Games, especially if the Mountain West gains an autoberth in the next year or two, which seems likely.

by Zac :: Thu, 08/19/2010 - 1:08am

Yeah it's worth mentioning that BYU as champion of the Mountain West Conference gets an automatic bid if it finishes in the BCS top 12 (and is above the WAC champion in said rankings).

From my reading of the selection procedure, independent BYU can only get into the BCS as an at-large member that finishes in the BCS top 14. And at-large means it needs to be selected by the bowl. Even if it does have the largest fan base of any team in the MWC, I have trouble believing it would be chosen over an eligible at large team from a major conference.
Notre Dame has special rules regarding an automatic berth. Army, Navy, and an independent BYU do not.

by Jeff Fogle :: Thu, 08/19/2010 - 2:17pm

2009: TCU 38, BYU 7
2008: TCU 32, BYU 7

Might be fun to try and calculate the percentage chance that BYU has of winning the Mountain West each year...with TCU and Boise State in the mix, and the knowledge that they'd probably have to go 2-0 or 3-0 (counting championship game) vs. those teams to win the conference in a given season.

Then, you move them out of the conference, giving them:

*A better TV contract that features 1-2 marquee home games (because you can only sell your home games to a network) at altitude.

*Improved recruiting because of the TV contract.

*Control over all 12 games of their schedule rather than just the non-conference games...meaning they can give themselves byes or cupcakes the week before the most important games.

Is it easier to game the system for 12-0 as an independent, with the promise of a large bowl crowd for a selection committee? Or, is it easier to beat out TCU and Boise State in the same year, given that you just lost two games to TCU by a combined 70-14 score, and they'll have Texas athletes and Gary Patterson's defensive schematics (until the time Patterson moves on, which he probably won't if the MWC gets that automatic bid)?

Will Bronco Mendenhall move on to a struggling Pac 10 or Big 12 program that offers big money? Or, would he stay with an independent "Notre Dame of the West" that could pay him more because of the TV contract?

What are the chances of BYU without Mendenhall if they stay in the MWC?

What are the chances of BYU with Mendenhall if they don't have to play TCU every year and can arrange their schedule to maximize win potential?

by Sophandros :: Thu, 08/19/2010 - 10:30am

I think that academics is also playing a role here....

Sports talk radio and sports message boards are the killing fields of intellectual discourse.

by Dennis :: Thu, 08/19/2010 - 1:19pm

I just don't see BYU as being a huge national draw where decent/good teams from BCS conferences are going to line up to play them. I don't see too many teams that would be willing to give up an off-week during conference play to go to Provo instead of having an early season home game against a weak team. The teams that would be willing to do home-and-home with BYU are the bottom ones like Indiana, Washington, Vanderbilt, Baylor, etc. I can't see a network picking up any of those games for any significant amount of money.

by D :: Thu, 08/19/2010 - 1:39am

Now the real question; if (IF) BYU could be convinced to stay would an 11 team MCW (BYU, BSU and the 9 Bill mentioned) go ahead and grab some other school (Houston or SMU perhaps?) to get to a full dozen and set up a conference championship game?

by sjt (not verified) :: Thu, 08/19/2010 - 8:51am

I have to think that would be plan #1 for them. Every conference wants a championship game and the coin that comes with it.

by CuseFanInSoCal :: Thu, 08/19/2010 - 10:18am

The Texas 10 apparently does not (or at least Texas doesn't, and that's good enough for the rest of the former Big 12).

by buzzorhowl (not verified) :: Thu, 08/19/2010 - 9:48am

Keep in mind, it is actually 12 teams because Bill forgot Boise State.

by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Thu, 08/19/2010 - 2:49pm

No, the OP is right. With Boise State and BYU the MWC would go up to 11.

by buzzorhowl (not verified) :: Thu, 08/19/2010 - 8:57pm

My bad, managed to count Nevada twice.

by FireOmarTomlin :: Thu, 08/19/2010 - 10:15am

Biggest loser will probably be Hawaii

LOL, death of WAC , no conference wants to adsorb them to travel that far to play such a SOS killer.


Patterson hints much bigger national scene moves coming, BYU has shot itself in the foot. No surprise, a bunch of 25 year olds can't win on the field, how is this program expected to get anything right off the field.


Men are more ready to repay an injury than a benefit because gratitude is a burden and revenge a pleasure.

by Scott P. (not verified) :: Thu, 08/19/2010 - 12:53pm

Hawaii could always form a conference with the University of Alaska, Alaska Pacific University, The University of Guam, Guam Community College, American Samoa Community College, and Northern Marianas College.

by tuluse :: Thu, 08/19/2010 - 1:23pm

Pacific Rim 6

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 08/19/2010 - 6:35pm

Them's some long bus rides....

by Alternator :: Thu, 08/19/2010 - 11:25pm

So, the important thing:

Do people think BYU is going to stick around now that this is announced, or do they still go independent in football? If they do, where do their other sports land, since the MWC is unlikely to want to keep them when they want to get to twelve schools.

Those other sports might just keep football in the MWC.

by zlionsfan :: Fri, 08/20/2010 - 6:03pm

The WAC was more than happy to have them for the other sports; that may be more likely true now. Another rumor was the West Coast Conference; supposedly a better match in terms of schools. I don't know offhand how that matches with the MWC sports BYU plays.

I don't know that they would stay in the MWC even if a 12th school were identified, and I wonder how well they would fit in with other conferences ... on the one hand, it seems like a smaller conference would work better so that BYU could say "sure, we're in, but no Sunday games, right?" and the other schools would go along gladly. On the other hand, would the calculated gains from football (contract + not sharing bowl money) exceed the expected costs of participating in smaller conferences in other sports?

I think being split up from Utah was a tough blow, and perhaps they want to be an independent so that they can hang out until the Pac-12 expands again. (Not that they'd necessarily be invited ... they weren't this time, right?) If the WAC folds and Utah State can get into the MWC without paying, BYU might be more likely to hang around, but I don't see anything else that would keep them.

by mm (not verified) :: Fri, 08/20/2010 - 8:30pm

Academic freedom at BYU is controversial enough to get its own wikipedia article. As long as that's the case, expect schools like Stanford and Cal to resist adding them to their conference.

If the Big 12 ever expands, BYU would likely be one of the first schools considered.