Scott D. Pierce: BYU has long been owed bigger slice of pie

Published: Friday, Aug. 27 2010 12:00 a.m. MDT

It would be in the Mountain West Conference's own self-interest to give BYU a bigger slice of the TV revenue pie. Because, without the Cougars, the pie is going to get a lot smaller.

(As this is being written, we're still waiting to hear if BYU goes independent or stays in the MWC.)

This is not a discussion of who has the best football team. Clearly, TCU had the best team in the MWC last season, and Boise State beat TCU in the Fiesta Bowl.

This is a discussion of what teams are the most valuable — the most marketable — when it comes to TV.

Neither Boise State nor TCU has the TV clout of BYU. Neither could go independent and command millions of dollars from ESPN. Which BYU can. For a wide range of games.

One local radio host stated that ESPN would not be interested in BYU-San Diego State. Really? Not only has ESPN/ABC telecast that game on multiple occasions, but ESPN2 telecast BYU-Tulane 111/2 months ago. And it sure wasn't because of Tulane's huge fan base.

Without BYU, the value of MWC sports drops precipitously. You're left with a collection of teams in small-to-tiny TV markets (BSU, Wyoming, Nevada, New Mexico, Fresno State, UNLV) or in bigger markets where the teams are afterthoughts (Colorado State, San Diego State, TCU). Without BYU, the only team that has a national following is Air Force.

Would a 10- or 12-team MWC without BYU be more attractive to TV than the current nine-team WAC? Absolutely not. And the WAC makes even less from its TV deal than the MWC.

For that matter, with Utah in the Pac-12 and BYU independent, would The mtn. even exist? What little advertising there is on the channel seems to be mostly Utah-based.

Let's face it. BYU has been subsidizing the MWC — and the WAC before that — for decades. Any idiot could figure that out.

But it hasn't been obvious to everybody. Seven years ago, Wyoming's president refused to change the kickoff of a game against BYU so that it could be telecast on KSL. And he threw a hissy fit when the MWC council (headed by then-U. president Bernie Machen) overruled him.

The fact is that BYU and Utah had both sacrificed their own interests (local telecasts) for the rest of the MWC in that ESPN contract. And an ungrateful Wyoming refused to return the favor.

BYU has sacrificed its own interests to the league for years. Yes, decades. And being a team player has gotten the Cougars nowhere.

If a star quarterback can make your pro franchise big money from ticket and merchandise sales, you pay him more than the linemen. It's not that you don't need linemen, but they're smart enough to know that teaming with that QB is good for them.

The MWC ought to be at least as smart as an NFL lineman.

e-mail: pierce@desnews.com

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