Cougars happy with move to independence, WCC affiliation

By Jeff Call

Deseret News

Published: Saturday, June 30 2012 9:37 p.m. MDT

BYU Defeats Tulsa in the Armed Forces Bowl in Dallas Texas by a score of 24-21. December 30, 2011

Deseret News

PROVO — One year ago today, BYU officially left the Mountain West Conference in favor of football independence. At the same time, many of the Cougars' other teams joined the West Coast Conference.

Looking back at the past season, it was a challenging period of transition, according to BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe.

"I think it was a really good year. It was tough," Holmoe said. "There was a lot of uncharted territory that we went through and I think we maneuvered through it well. We realize that we did some things that we might have done better. But we can correct those mistakes as we go forward."

In football, the Cougars rebounded from a 1-2 start, winning nine of their last 10 games, including a dramatic victory over Tulsa in the Armed Forces Bowl to cap their inaugural season as an independent. Eleven games were televised on the ESPN family of networks.

Meanwhile, Holmoe said the school has enjoyed its membership in the WCC.

"The WCC has been great. They have very competitive sports and great players. We're in a dogfight in most sports. I like that. Our players and coaches like the venues and the locations, and especially the competition."

As it turned out, the Cougars won just one regular season WCC title — in men's cross country, and BYU earned only one WCC tournament championship — in women's basketball.

The WCC does not sponsor men's and women's swimming and diving, men's and women's track, and softball. BYU's swimming and diving programs joined the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, the track teams competed in the MPSF during the indoor season and were independent in the spring, and the softball team joined the Western Athletic Conference. Men's volleyball did not change conferences, as it was already part of the MPSF.

In club sports, BYU's rugby team won the national championship, defeating Arkansas State at Rio Tinto Stadium in May.

A look at how the Cougars fared in 2011-12:

Men's teams

Baseball: BYU posted an overall record of 22-27 and finished seventh in the WCC with a 10-14 mark. Mike Littlewood, a former Cougar, was hired as BYU's new head coach on June 28, replacing Vance Law.

Basketball: The Cougars finished third in the WCC (12-4) and had a 26-9 overall mark. They defeated Iona in a first-round NCAA Tournament game, boasting the largest comeback in NCAA Tournament history.

Cross country: BYU earned a WCC championship and finished fourth nationally.

Football: The Cougars finished with a 10-3 record, marking the sixth time in seven seasons they compiled double-digit wins. They were ranked No. 25 in the final USA Today Coaches Poll.

Golf: BYU finished third in the WCC and sent two golfers, Zac Blair and Justin Keiley, to the NCAA West Regionals.

Swimming & diving: The Cougars won the MPSF championship and finished No. 35 in the national rankings.

Tennis: BYU placed fourth in the WCC standings (5-4) and ended with a No. 59 national ranking and 16-9 record.

Track & field: Miles Batty broke the NCAA indoor mile record and narrowly lost in the outdoor 1,500 meters. He was one of six Cougars to earn All-America honors. BYU finished No. 14 nationally in the indoor season, and No. 21 in the outdoor season.

Volleyball: BYU finished third in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (17-5), and fourth in the nation with a 24-7 record.

Women's teams

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