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Associated Press
Dick Tomey, right, embraces Ron McBride prior to the Freedom Bowl back in 1994.

Former Arizona and Hawaii head football coach Dick Tomey still jokes with LaVell Edwards that he got stuck playing BYU at the wrong time in his career.

Now a WAC TV analyst, Tomey was a keynote speaker at the New Mexico Bowl kickoff luncheon, and beforehand, I cornered him to talk BCS, BYU independence and a renewal of the BYU-Hawaii football rivalry.

"I had to face Jim McMahon and Steve Young. I had Kyle Morrell jumping over the goal line, McMahon punting left-footed for 90 yards and Casey Tiumalu running the draw play five times for a length of the field for a winning touchdown. You know, that sort of thing," said Tomey.

BYU and Hawaii agreeing to play the series again is a very big deal on the Islands, said Tomey, who still makes Hawaii his home. "Those games were electric and the stadium is on fire when these two teams meet." BYU plays at Hawaii in the final regular season game of 2011, the first season of Cougar independence.

BYU as an independent? Tomey, a 32-year veteran college coach, two of it with Hawaii as an independent, says BYU as an independent should work.

"My opinion is, if anybody in this part of the world can do it (BYU can), said Tomey.

"That's my opinion. They have a national championship on their resume. They have a nationwide, if not a worldwide appeal, they have a television network that a lot of schools aspire to; they've got it, right there. And they have a tremendous program and they were tremendous when LaVell was there and they've continued to be an outstanding program with Bronco."

Life as an independent, as has been analyzed in-depth locally, will be a challenge in scheduling, especially in October and November when other teams are deep in league schedules, said Tomey.

"I think if anybody can do it, they can because they can attract people to BYU. They will have to travel more and they'll have to make some deals to get games. I think Tom (Holmoe) has it off to a good start and I'd be surprised if they don't have success."

And ESPN? "I know BYU's partnership they have with is one of the things that pushed them over the edge. There is no question about the fact that, I'm not sure if they would have done it if Utah had stayed in the conference. I don't think BYU would go independent. But I think all the different moves necessitated a move for their constituency that was forward thinking and exciting, and they've done it and the result could be dynamite."

Tomey said BYU as an independent is flashier than Army and Navy, and with Notre Dame struggling the past few years, it makes as much sense as the Fighting Irish.

"BYU's done a great job. This will be a chance for them to step into a rarefied atmosphere because as good as programs as they have, Army and Navy and Notre Dame are not the best programs in the world.

"I mean they are good and they are all going to bowl games, and I'm proud of our two local (Hawaii) coaches, (Navy's Ken Niumatalolo and Army's Rich Ellerson). But BYU is certainly in that category if not better the last five years. If you look at their resume, BYU is a better program than all of them (the last five years)."

What about conference expansion, is it over? Tomey believes there still will be movement and there could be fewer conferences in the future. He said when Fresno State and Nevada left the WAC, Hawaii was devastated because the Warriors were the longest-standing member of the WAC.

"The moves have been amazingly swift, and I'm not sure they are finished. It's going to be a fact of life in college football. Maybe we move towards fewer conferences, I don't know where it's going." The BCS has fragmented and labeled college football programs, but Tomey isn't sure a playoff is the answer.

"I might be a minority but I think the BCS right now has given us a better chance to have a true champion than anything else because you have to go through so many hurdles to get to the championship game.

"The team that gets to the championship game has really played great football all year and in most cases has not been beaten. If you get a playoff, you'll get a team that won the tournament but would they be the best team? I don't know."

Tomey said former Arizona coach Lute Olson was "phenomenal" and he worked with him when he coached the Wildcat football program. "He won a national championship after beating two No. 1 seeds and they were fabulous, but they finished fifth in the Pac-10. Were they the best team in the country? Probably not. But they got hot at the right time."

That is what a playoff might give us, said Tomey.

"I think the teams playing on Jan. 10th are the two best teams, they withstood the test of time and I think in many ways, the BCS keeps the conversation alive. I do believe that college football is leaving a lot of money on the table for somebody else to get. Like in the book 'Death to the BCS,' there is a lot of money out there that is not being captured because of the system. College football needs to find a way to get that revenue."

e-mail: dharmon@desnews.com