Saturday, January 03, 2015

BYU football independence: Pros and cons

I am no fan of independence, but that doesn't mean I don't recognize its advantages. Independence has some serious advantages over G5 (even P5) conference affiliation. But to me, none of independence's advantages matter.

To you, though, they might. 

Here are the pros and cons, advantages and disadvantages, of independence, as I see them. If I'm missing something, let me know. Otherwise, look it over and decide which camp gets your support.

Independence Pros:
  • Money, money, money. We get lots and lots of money as an independent. We signed our own TV deal with ESPN worth lots of money, and every time we go to a bowl game we get to keep all the prize money to ourselves. Hooray for money! 
  • ESPN. Like I said in the above point, we signed our own independent TV deal with ESPN (NOTE: This deal is for BYU home games only. When BYU plays away games, they are subject to that school's TV agreement.). I don't know all the details of the deal, but I think the contract says we'll have at least like three games on either ABC, ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPNU a year, and those games will take place on either Thursdays, Fridays or Saturdays. ESPN has the option, of course, of picking up any home games they want and showing them on whatever channel they want. ESPN has also granted us re-broadcast rights, so we can show game replays on BYUTV. Speaking of which...
  • BYUTV. ESPN has been very good to us in regards to BYUTV. They let BYUTV broadcast at least one home game every year, and they're totally cool with BYUTV airing replays of home games.
  • Scheduling. As an independent, we (in theory) have the freedom to schedule anyone in the country, any time during the football season. This is why have played and will play games against Wisconsin, Texas, Notre Dame, Cal, Missouri, Nebraska, West Virginia, Stanford, USC, and so on.
  • Exposure. Because we have our own TV deal, and because we play all over the country, we get lots and lots of opportunities to get our name out there. Build the BYU brand. And we also have a pretty nice little national fan base who gets to come watch some BYU football in their various necks of the woods when we take our team on the road. Thousands of southern-fried BYU fans made the trip to see BYU play Middle Tennessee State earlier this year, for example. And when we do something memorable, like beat the heck out of Texas on their home field, we get lots of credit for it. 
Now for the cons.

Independence Cons:
  • No guarantees. As an independent, we are on an island. Concerning post-season play, we have no contracts, no stipulations, no tie-ins, no guarantees. I'm not saying we can never have those things as an independent (Notre Dame does), but so far we haven't been able to negotiate or wiggle our way into any kind of bowl agreement (let alone any kind of agreement with the Playoff or the NY6).
  • No explicit NY6 or Playoff access. Since BYU is not affiliated with any conference, we don't have any guaranteed access to the NY6 bowl games or the College Football Playoff. All we have is the hope that we can win enough games to get us high enough in the rankings that one of those bowl games would make us an at-large selection. We'd have to be at least in the top 10 for that ever to happen... probably more like top five. 
  • One and done. For BYU to get into the top five, they'd probably have to go undefeated. MAYBE they could get there with one loss if their schedule was super tough. Most years, though, when BYU loses once their dreams of an NY6 game or a national championship goes up in smoke. And then after that first loss it's just exhibition games until we get to whatever low-tier bowl game we have an agreement with that year. 
  • No conference championships or awards. Whether you think it's a big deal or not, the fact is we have no conference championship trophy to play for. And no weekly or annual conference awards for players. Which feeds into the whole one-loss "nothing to play for" scenario described above. 
  • Home scheduling. Yes, we can schedule (and have scheduled) big-name teams to play us all throughout the year as an independent. But the vast majority of those big-time games are a long ways away from Provo. And the return trips are a long ways into the future. Take our recent agreement with Missouri: BYU will play Missouri next year in Kansas City, and then Missouri will come back to Provo in 2020. Or Wisconsin. BYU played Wisconsin in Madison last year, but they won't come play us in Provo until 2019. Or Notre Dame. On the day we announced our independence, we also announced a four-away, two-at-home series with Notre Dame. They agreed to play in Provo twice at a date later to be determined. Well BYU played twice in South Bend, but Notre Dame has yet to schedule any return trip. Meanwhile, our home schedules have been filled with FCS teams like Idaho State and Savannah State, or G5 teams like UNLV, Utah State and Nevada.
  • Other home scheduling woes. ESPN has the TV rights to our home schedule, so they can schedule our games for whatever times suit them best. That means BYU vs. Nevada is three-and-a-half hours of content ESPN can use on a Friday night in October at, say, 10:30 p.m. Eastern. Fine for them, but as a fan it's no fun watching a BYU football game at 8:30 p.m. in November.
I think that's about it, although I'm pretty sure I'm forgetting at least one more con... oh well. 

So as a BYU fan (I'm assuming you are one) you have to ask yourself what's important. Is it money? TV time? Lots of travel around the country? Then independence is for you.

Or do you value NY6 access? Conference championships? Meaningful regular season games? If yes, then you are like me, and would rather BYU be in a conference (G5 or otherwise). 

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