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Three Lessons From BYU Going Independent

Back in June, Utah got a Pac-10 invitation while BYU didn't get so much as a phone call from that conference's leadership. At that point, the leaders at BYU must have decided that they needed to do something to make sure their football program didn't fall behind Utah in stature.

Shortly thereafter, the Big 12 announced that it would not expand beyond the 10 remaining members it had once Nebraska and Colorado took off. For BYU, only one option remained: become a powerful independent football program. With no BCS conference to join, it apparently was only a matter of time.

That must be the case, because these are the lessons we learned by BYU going independent and putting the rest of its sports in the WCC:

1. This was never about the WAC.

The WAC threw open its arms to welcome the Cougars back. It did all the behind-the-scenes work to pave the way for BYU's independence. It arranged a buyout clause at BYU's behest. It did everything it possibly could for BYU.

Then the MWC crippled the WAC by bringing over Nevada and Fresno State. BYU said nothing. BYU did nothing. It watched the WAC burn while quietly shifting negotiations over to the WCC. The WAC was always a pawn in the game, a means to an end. When that means disappeared, BYU simply moved on.

2. This was never about the MWC.

Well, it partially is about the MWC in that the MWC's TV package is perhaps the worst of any conference's. BYU can and will get more football television money by going independent. However, it probably won't get as much as if it had stayed and the MWC got an automatic BCS bid.

That auto bid was a long shot, but it was still a possibility. BYU could have decided to wait and see if the MWC would get AQ status before bolting. Instead, BYU is exiting stage right for the final year in the current conference evaluation period. That sends a strong message to the MWC: BYU didn't care about the conference's auto bid status. It was out no matter what.

3. This was never about BCS bowl appearances.

As a MWC member, BYU could have been guaranteed a spot in a BCS bowl with a ranking as low as 16th if the conditions were right. As a non-Notre Dame independent, it can only be guaranteed a BCS bid by finishing in the top two of the rankings. This move towards independence greatly impairs BYU's ability to make the big money games.

BYU clearly believes that it can make enough in the regular season to make up for its lost share of MWC member BCS game revenue. It's probably right in that regard.

This was always about money. This was always about keeping up with Utah. This was never about the WAC, MWC, or BCS.