BYU To Leave MWC for WCC – More WCC Expansion Coming?
They waited until the deadline, but an official announcement is expected soon that BYU will join the WCC for all sports excluding football. The football program would participate as an independent.
The rationale for BYU leaving the MWC has publicly been their discontent with the current Mountain West television contracts. However, the MWC has been just on the cusp of gaining a BCS automatic berth, something that would greatly boost BYU football revenue. The conference lost Utah, but replaced them with Boise St., a school that has performed better than any non-BCS school during the BCS conference evaluation period. There was an argument to be made that the addition of Boise St. as a replacement for Utah made the conference even stronger.
Behind the scenes though, there has been speculation that Utah being so openly accepted by the Pac-10, and that schools immediate financial boost, while BYU was never even considered, was a big reason for the BYU drama. Hell hath no fury like an in-state rival scorned.
The move of BYU to the WCC could also put the WAC in even more of a tough spot. The conference has been expecting a $10 million payday via exit fees from Nevada and Fresno St., two schools that left the WAC for the MWC and ultimately caused BYU to pass on the WAC option called “The Project”. But this same agreement created by BYU, which created the exit fees, seems to have been contingent on BYU joining the WAC. This one will likely make it to the courts as the WAC feels both schools owe the money, while the schools now have a stronger legal reason to decline making payments.
Meanwhile, the Mountain West now finds themselves at 10 schools. It’s a comfortable number that will allow a 9 game conference schedule. But at this point, it might not be a shocker is the MWC expanded to 12. Utah St. is a candidate that could make up a part of the loss of Utah and BYU from the Utah market. Houston has been considered as it would give access to the conference to that market. CUSA member UTEP could be an option as well. Any moves by the MWC will likely be based on the effect of BYU’s departure will have on the television contracts. So it’s just as likely that no more MWC expansion will occur.
And then there is the clear winner…the West Coast Conference.
The WCC is now at 9 members with the BYU addition.
The WCC has considered expansion before with such schools as Pacific and Santa Barbara, as well as Seattle. It has been made clear though that the conference has only considered private/faith based schools that meet the conferences general profile.
The WCC has also hinted that if they expand, it will always be done to maintain a balanced membership: 8 schools or 10 schools. With the addition of BYU, there could be room for a 10th school now.
If further expansion were to happen, there are likely only 2 candidates that fit the basic criteria:
* faith based school
* western location
* metro DMA
Seattle University will be working hard to be invited. The school has tried already and been unsuccessful. But the Seattle market might be even more appealing now that Salt Lake City is in the mix. The addition of Seattle would give the WCC schools in Seattle, Portland, Spokane, Salt Lake City, Bay Area, Los Angeles, San Diego.
The other school that could fit the 10th spot would be Denver.
Denver has for long been out of place in the Sunbelt due to it’s location. But there haven’t been many options for Denver as they don’t sponsor an FBS program. Had they, the WAC or MWC might have been options. Had they had FCS football, the Big Sky would be a fit.
With the addition of BYU, the WCC has a decision to make:
* Remain at 9 schools with BYU
* Expand to 10 with the Seattle market (Seattle University)
* Expand to 10 and push the WCC footprint further east into Denver
* The least likely option…add Seattle, Denver and add a 12th school such as Pacific
And while this happens, more tears are shed in the WAC offices as they cross their fingers that they can entice FCS schools like Montana, Sacramento St., Texas St. and UTSA to join. Ouch.