The Long-term Viability of Independence

It’s the same old argument from before; why do schools from BCS programs have any incentive to play a quality mid-major school?  Recently, Cougar Center presented this subject matter with the revelation that Georgia Tech is looking to cancel its 2014 and 2017 match-ups with BYU.  The major issue at hand is, with the formation of bigger conferences, teams within them are creeping towards more conferences games and thus, less non-conference match-ups.  In GaTech’s case, they’re not giving up their rivalry games and would much rather schedule a tune-up game, which BYU is anything but.  The expansion of conferences closes the door on the mid-majors just a little bit more by giving them less opportunity to strengthen schedules which are already much weaker than BCS schools.

BYU’s case is much more troubling.  Being independent got them a big breath of fresh air, and the bells and whistles they desired from an exposure standpoint, but left them wide open to this contraction in a quality scheduling pool.  They’ve had a hard time coming up with quality schedules the first 2 years of independence (though Tom Holmoe informed us that it would be transitory the first two seasons), and the evolving progression to the SuperConference will only constrict opportunities for BYU to schedule adequately.  But BYU’s administration is not made up of fools; I think they see the writing on the horizon.  I maintain that BYU went independent as a means of eventually finding a home in the Big 12.

However, if conferences are keen enough to pick up on this troubling trend, BYU could end up in a position that is undesirable to them.  The Cougars don’t gamble, but this situation of BYU vying for a BCS conference slot could be a 5 year game of chicken!  You’d have BYU essentially saying to the Big 12 or other conferences ‘We bring this to your conference, and we have this fan base.  But we want this and this and this in return.’  The conferences could very easily turn their backs on BYU and say essentially ‘We’re not going to give you all you want.  Take this deal or leave it.  And if you leave it, let’s see how well you do without us.’

This is precarious foreshadowing for BYU with the pending cancellations by Georgia Tech.  We’re beginning to see cracks in the foundation around BYU’s independence.  Nevertheless, BYU still has plenty of quality games for the next few years to remain at a high enough level.  However, what happens when you have an NBA or NFL star who’s getting to be a veteran, who’s in the last year of a max contract?  Some teams trade those guys before seasons end rather than letting them walk so the team can get some value for the player.  Similarly, BYU will need to ‘trade’ itself from independence to a conference for the maximum they feel they can get.  And it needs to happen sooner rather than later.  For, as we all know, the older the player gets, the less value you have to the next team.  So too is the case with BYU.  As much as I’ve loved watching BYU in all its independence this year, the BYU administration should be working hard to find an adequate suitor that will provide the maximum amount of benefits possible.

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