Dick Harmon: Independence could be BYU's best option

Published: Friday, July 30 2010 10:00 p.m. MDT

BYU has already taken advantage of a loophole in the MWC television contract with Comcast and its partners in basketball.

This surfaced when the Cougars play games in the EnergySolutions Arena and stage those two-game preseason events in Las Vegas, where BYU-TV can roll its HD truck. BYU has only to hire a five- to 10-man sales staff to make it a commercial enterprise. Right now, it is primarily for exposure.

Texas has told the Big 12 it wants to create its own TV network, work within the umbrella of the league's contract and get a piece of its own pie on the side.

I am told this Texas dream for an independent network is years behind what BYU has already created and has available at the push of a button and hiring a staff of salespeople for commercials.

It could take Texas almost a decade to reach the audience that BYU can deliver immediately. Some believe Texas, with all its power and influence, may never land on the basic satellite platform of DirecTV and Dish Network that BYU currently enjoys because any new network would certainly be added to a premium sports tier to nick subscribers and make it financially viable.

It doesn't take a lot of imagination to understand what BYU is capable of doing if it wants to, and to what parties it can make a pitch.

How or what BYU does with all this is a matter of conjecture.

The MWC's current TV contract can absorb a defection by Utah or an addition of Boise State and Fresno State. But I've been told if the fundamental identity of the MWC changes as a TV property (and losing BYU and Utah would do that), Comcast could have grounds to pull the plug.

So BYU does have some bargaining power if it chooses to play a card or two and request some considerations in light of Utah's departure.

Taking an inventory of BYU assets and deciding how strong it wants to be with its current partners is something BYU's administrators must do.

If they don't, they'd be fools.

Holmoe has been smart in the fact that he's basically shut his mouth on expansion. Only twice this spring and summer (once to a Tennessee newspaper and this month's local press conference) has he spoken of the issue, refusing all other interviews. BYU is not in a position to demand inclusion in any other league because of its unique religious quirks that some don't like, such as no Sunday play.

For him to leak stuff would be counterproductive and harmful, and he's wise to be quiet and just do his job behind the scenes.

He once told me, "You don't just call up Augusta National and tell them you want to become a member. It doesn't work that way."

But in this summer of moves, and lack thereof, in the expansion circus, remember Holmoe's words about expansion and no invitation so far to leave the MWC.

"BYU's been working on this for three years. We're in an unusual position of being in the middle of things, but not on the internal area of things," he said.

"Instead of being acted upon, we wanted to be proactive. On the other hand, we're not Notre Dame. We can't make demands, and we don't have multiple invitations. So we try to make the best of this jigsaw puzzle and position ourselves now and for the future."

Read behind the lines.


Nothing's off the table, but going independent might be the nuclear option.

e-mail: dharmon@desnews.com

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