It is impossible to be sure of what conference changes will take place in the next couple of years. The defection of Boise State from the Big East brought SDSU back with them to the Mountain West Conference as expected. Along with SDSU, the return of BSU also brought the pole position from the BE to the MWC. Speculating about what the MWC will do with this new power would be mostly fruitless. However, speculating what they won’t do (but should) is rather easy:
FIRST – Give BYU whatever they want to bring them in.
SECOND – Use the BYU+BSU status to maximize upcoming TV revenue renegotiations triggered by adding back SDSU (with stipulations for the following additions).
THIRD – Use the BYU+BSU status and the new TV contract to lure in Houston as an all-sports member and Cincinnati as a football-only member. Maybe even add SMU as full and UConn as football-only, if it made more sense as travel partners for Houston and Cinci.
FOURTH – In basketball the WCC would have lost BYU, the MWC would have added BYU and Houston to an already loaded group, and the MWC would have a significantly bigger TV contract than the WCC. Leverage all that to lure Gonzaga in to the MWC as a non-football member.
Does the MWC really want to take control of “Gang of Five” by making it a Gang of One with 4 leftovers? Because they can if they want to. It’s time to sit down and protect the conference from another pole position shift, to solidify what they have. Creativity got them this pole position and creativity can harness it.
In the case of BYU, let’s think about what it would take to get them. In the very least, they would want rebroadcast rights. Giving BYU the same football home game packaging they gave BSU would allow that to happen. It would even allow the MWC to add BYU almost immediately, despite being under contract with ESPN for another 6 years because BYU could simply continue with their existing contract. If that weren’t enough, then give BYU one more carrot: grant BYU continued ownership of their home football games outright, in exchange for waiving any conference TV revenue (including the bonuses for playing on national TV). Consequently, BYU would lose nothing by joining the MWC but gain scheduling relief, conference titles to work for, and improved Bowl opportunities not the least of which is the ability to participate in the high-profile BCS 2.0 games. No-brainer for them. The MWC would lose nothing by conceding to BYU what they already have; but they would gain ticket and TV revenue from BYU conference road games, add BYU in all non-football sports, increase conference SOS and national brand, and expand the power of their pole position. Again, a no-brainer for the MWC. Any argument about fairness and equity are simply masks for pride and delusion. Can you imagine a business that refused to use creativity to bundle software because they thought their software was too valuable sold individually? Oh, right, that would be Word Perfect back when they were the giant of personal software. How well did that pride/tradition move go for them? The reality is, as in business, what you should REALLY be evaluating is whether or not a specific move is more beneficial to the group than if they had not made the move. In this case, giving BYU home rights costs nothing but pride, yet it gains plenty, based on what they would get now and what it can help add later. It is stubborn ignorance NOT to do this.
Now with Boise State and newly added BYU, the new TV contract negotiations triggered by the return of SDSU have shifted dramatically in potential value. Now is the time to bring your big stick and bring in new revenue for the whole group. Suddenly, not only are first tier rights of greater value, but by trickle down, even second tier rights now have real marketability. And while you’re at it, be sure to include stipulations for future potential changes.
With the addition of BYU and an improved TV contract, now is the time to finish off any competition from the remaining “Gang of Five” by taking the best left over teams. There may not be the same opportunity even one year from now. If the Big 12 were to add BSU and BYU next year, then the MWC loses all ability to solidify their status on top. The clear choices to add are Houston and Cincinnati, both of which get the MWC teams that are in nice recruiting areas, great TV markets, and have recent success. Add these two teams to what would be in the MWC already and no other remaining conference holds a candle to the MWC. With BYU and BSU in the conference, along with an improved financial package, then there are real chances of getting both schools to join. Cincinnati would need to join as a football-only school, but with the Catholic 7 needing some non-football additions, this might even be a positive for Cincinnati. If it makes sense from a travel partner standpoint, I could even see it being worth bringing SMU as a full member to partner with Houston, and UConn in as a football-only to join Cinci.
That leaves one last piece that really adds value to the MWC and would truly make the it a complete conference: adding Gonzaga as a non-football school. Currently, the MWC is already a mammoth basketball conference. With 6 teams in the top 35 prior to expansions, (UNM, Wyoming, BSU, UNLV, CSU, and SDSU), the MWC is already a top 3 conference in the nation. Adding in BYU and Houston would give the MWC depth that would last every year. Not only would the MWC be the best of the rest in football, they would be a legitimate power in basketball. Adding Gonzaga would make the MWC an insanely good basketball conference! HUGE win for the MWC. With what would certainly mean increased revenue for Gonzaga, (both from better TV revenue but also from having a conference that would have 5-8 tourney teams every year), and giving Gonzaga a more exciting schedule, the MWC would be a very intriguing opportunity for them. I’m not convinced the Zags would take it, but if it is plausible, you should at least try.
If they do all those things, the MWC would be an incredible conference. With the best football outside the country club – and even within some of them (ACC), and with a basketball league that is truly in elite status; the MWC would have the strength to not only be prominent now, but more importantly to survive whatever the future conference shifting may bring. Without question, these are all moves that would strengthen the conference and SHOULD be done. Sadly, it will never happen. It just makes too much sense.