Dick Harmon: BYU football: Cougars lucked out by passing on the crumbling Big East

Published: Friday, Dec. 14 2012 12:05 p.m. MST

BYU plays San Jose State in a football game at the Lavell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2011.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

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This week’s rumblings in the Big East confirm that the college football scene remains unsettled and changing.

It also underscores BYU’s wisdom in refusing to make a quick and harried jump to the Big East just more than a year ago.

Criticized, second-guessed and labeled "hard to work with," BYU didn’t escape that decision without a few nicks and bruises. Without seeing things in writing that were better than what they already had, those who pull the strings at BYU decided to honor a contract with the WCC and maintain football independence for the time being.

Meanwhile, Armageddon has ensued in the Big East.

Consider, since Boise State and San Diego State decided to join the Big East a year ago, that conference has continued to evolve and is now threatened with the potential departure of its storied basketball programs.

The Big East turned down an ESPN contract offer, and it’s negotiating power for media rights has become weaker by the week.

Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College all left for the ACC in 2004-05, and TCU — the nation’s most famous revolving-door athletic program — took its CUSA, MWC, Big East resume to the Big 12 in 2012.

In 2012, West Virginia bolted from the Big East to the Big 12. Syracuse and Pitt will run away to the ACC in 2013, with Louisville and Notre Dame's non-football teams following. And Rutgers will leave the Big East in 2014 for the Big Ten.

Now, that is change.

Talk about Big East instability. It’s a Liz Taylor marriage.

It now appears Big East-bound SDSU and Boise State are forced to consider more options. The MWC is also trying to evolve and define things. Utah State found a lifeline in that conference just before the WAC disintegrated into a tough-to-define league comprised of multi-directional name programs.

As SDSU coach Rocky Long told reporters this week, the college football scene is far from settled and more change is expected. This thing that took Utah to the Pac-12, Nebraska to the Big Ten, and Missouri and Texas A&M to the SEC continues to morph.

Even the BCS has yielded to a form of a national playoff.

We haven’t seen anything settle to lake bottom and anything could yet be stirred up.

That’s why the status quo is a good place for BYU at the present.

It’s a perch that is productive with the ESPN exposure and flexibility of BYUtv. The WCC has turned out to be all the basketball challenge the Cougars can handle in the post-Jimmer Fredette era.

From that perch, BYU president Cecil O. Samuelson, athletic director Tom Holmoe and their governing board of trustees can at least take a timely survey of the scene and determine what is meaningful and what is not.

That’s been the plan the past two years of independence.

Flexibility, exposure and freedom.

That is a trio of good amigos to have in your corner during times of change.

The Big 12 appears satiated, at least for now, to stay at 10 schools. But, if it continues to see other conferences' championship football games bring in more money and coveted exposure at a critical time to determine seeding of a playoff, it could go to 12, 14 or even 16 schools.

Or not.

This is an interesting time in college athletics.

Traditions and rivalries are being tossed overboard like unused cargo that just gets in the way.

This is the mutinous buccaneer era of college sports. Everybody’s looking for buried treasure, as if that will solve everything.

You can’t blame SDSU and Boise State for trying.

And you can understand why DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. Johns, Seton Hall and Villanova — pillars of one of the finest basketball leagues the NCAA has ever known — are looking for a new ride outside the Big East.

This is today’s path for America's hallowed institutions of higher learning that just happen to dabble in games.

In a way, it's all kind of embarrassing what we've done.

Dick Harmon, Deseret News sports columnist, can be found on Twitter as Harmonwrites and can be contacted at dharmon@desnews.com.

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