BYU football: Cougars' return to MWC is 'simply speculative'

Published: Monday, Nov. 19 2012 9:35 p.m. MST

Brigham Young quarterback Riley Nelson (13) breaks a tackle by San Jose State defensive end David Tuitupou (41) in the first quarter of an NCAA college football game in San Jose, Calif., Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012. (AP Photo/John Storey)

John Storey, AP

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PROVO — College football realignment continued Monday with Maryland jumping from the Atlantic Coast Conference to the Big Ten, while Rutgers is expected to move from the Big East to the Big Ten.

Also on Monday, ESPN.com's Brett McMurphy reported that BYU, along with Boise State and San Diego State "have had conversations with the Mountain West membership about the possibility of returning to the league."

Are the Cougars, who left the MWC in September, 2010, to go independent, considering a return to the MWC?

BYU associate athletic director Duff Tittle, when asked about the report, replied: "I certainly understand why you would seek comment, but the report regarding BYU is simply speculative. As you know, BYU chooses not to respond to conjecture."

Reporters asked coach Bronco Mendenhall after Monday night's practice about the report. He said that he wasn't aware of it until media relations director Brett Pyne filled him in just before meeting with the media.

"That was the first time I heard it," he said. "I don't know anything about it."

Would he be shocked if it were true?

"There's nothing I'd be shocked by with realignment," Mendenhall replied. "I don't know what to think. I'm just trying to get our team ready to play."

The Cougars visit New Mexico State on Saturday (1:30 p.m. MT, ESPN3).

McMurphy reported that BYU, Boise State and San Diego State began talking to the MWC after last week's decision by the BCS commissioners to give an automatic access bowl bid to the highest-rated champion of the so-called "Group of Five" conferences. That would give the MWC equal playoff access with the Big East beginning in 2014.

Boise State and San Diego State have been planning to become members of the Big East next season.

As for BYU?

"BYU's deal with ESPN is worth nearly $4 million a year through 2018, with an option for 2019, sources said," McMurphy wrote. "BYU wouldn't be able to earn that much in the Mountain West, but the Cougars could be interested in returning to a conference because it would get greater access to a major bowl berth."

Asked about how the new playoff system affects BYU as an independent, Mendenhall said, "It's about the same access we had before, the way I see it. We'll still have to be undefeated, I think, to be considered."

Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com reported Monday that BYU and Army receive only $100,000 per year from the BCS, which will increase to $200,000 in 2014.

"BYU and Army have the worst access of any of the 124 FBS schools because of their independence," Dodd wrote. "They will each be automatic in the playoff if they finish in the top four. Otherwise, they will have to be selected by the human committee."

Dodd also reported that according to an MWC source, BYU and MWC member schools "have been talking among themselves about the future, but only because those schools continue to play each other. No formal contact has been made with the Mountain West."

Last Friday, BYU and UNLV — a MWC member — announced a home-and-home agreement in 2014 and 2015.

MWC commissioner Craig Thompson told USA Today that there are a lot of conversations going on right now between schools and conferences.

"Athletic directors talk (to each other), the coaches talk, their presidents talk," Thompson told USA Today. "I think everybody is trying to monitor as best they can. Today's announcement (Maryland to Big Ten, and rumors of Rutgers, too) came very quickly. Everyone is trying to assimilate it. It will be interesting to see how it plays out. I would think maybe some of the logical reasons to have left the Mountain West no longer apply."

Meanwhile, SDSU athletic director Jim Sterk told the San Diego Union-Tribune that his school has not talked to the MWC about returning to the conference, and that the Aztecs are still planning to join the Big East next season.

"I have not spoken to the (Mountain West) commissioner since May, and there's been no communication with them," Sterk told the Union-Tribune. "Our president has just been on a call with Boise State, and they haven't had any communication with the Mountain West either, and the president at BYU (Cecil O. Samuelson) hasn't had communications with them either."

Email: jeffc@desnews.com

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