We talked — in context of the SEC and ACC conversations — what does it mean to schedule BYU? We really have to think about our scheduling. —Craig Thompson
After Mountain West Conference commissioner Craig Thompson made some interesting comments to Dennis Dodd, and there's just one question that needs an answer: What on earth is he thinking?
For those that missed Dodd's article, Thompson and the conference are apparently reconsidering scheduling the Cougars.
"We talked — in context of the SEC and ACC conversations — what does it mean to schedule BYU? We really have to think about our scheduling," Thompson told Dodd.
This comment is just plain silly.
Now, Thompson does not say that MWC teams can no longer schedule BYU, or that the conference is going to limit how often conference members can play the Cougars. All he said was that the conference needed to think about it.
This makes no sense at all.
It's no secret that Thompson's relationship with BYU has been rocky at best since the school decided to leave the Mountain West and go independent. After all, the conference's initial reaction to BYU's decision to go independent in football and join the Western Athletic Conference in all other sports was to torpedo the WAC by suddenly inviting Fresno State and Nevada. BYU went indy anyway, parking basketball and most of its other sports programs in the West Coast Conference.
Maybe Thompson decided to throw a jab at BYU out of spite right after the news that the SEC and ACC weren't going to consider BYU a "Power 5" opponent under their scheduling rules. It would be unwise for anyone, particularly a conference commissioner trying to keep his conference from being left behind in the shifting college football landscape, to act out of spite.
It's certainly not in the best interest of the teams he's supposed to promote.
Some have suggested that this is an attempt on the Mountain West's part to make scheduling on BYU's part so difficult that the Cougars would have no choice but to return to the Mountain West with their tail between their legs. Frankly, that doesn't make much sense, either.
The only way the Mountain West can hurt BYU at all is if the conference as a solid block refuses to schedule the Cougars. That would put immense pressure on BYU to join a conference.
News flash: That isn’t going to happen.
First off, BYU has a series with Utah State that goes through 2018. With the rise of Utah State’s program in recent years, BYU vs. USU has become a fun rivalry. It certainly wouldn’t be in Utah State’s best interest to cancel any game in this series, and it would be foolish for the Aggies and Cougars not to continue playing after 2018.
BYU will play Utah State on a regular basis no matter what Thompson says.
Second, BYU has a series with Boise State through 2023. There's no reason for the Broncos to break this contract. The Cougars bring plenty of fans up to the Smurf Turf. Plus the Cougars help with the Broncos' strength of schedule. Boise State's other non-conference foes in 2014 are Ole Miss, UConn and Louisiana-Lafayette. Out of the four, BYU is the most likely team to be ranked at the end of the season.
So, that's two Mountain West teams that will play BYU every year.
Finally, BYU has games with Nevada (2014, 2019), UNLV (2014, 2015), Fresno State (2015, 2017), San Jose State (2015, 2017) and Hawaii (2017, 2018). Between now and 2023, BYU has a grand total of 25 games with MWC already scheduled. It is not in the best interest of any of these teams to back out of any of these games with BYU.
There are some teams in the Mountain West that probably won't schedule BYU any time soon. These include San Diego State, New Mexico and Wyoming. That said, it's possible that BYU could schedule home-and-home series with Air Force and Colorado State, and don't be surprised if teams that already have series' with BYU agree to more of them in the future.
In short, BYU is going to play three or four Mountain West teams every year. Nothing Thompson said is going to change that simply because it is against the best interest of the teams in the Mountain West to shut BYU out of their schedules.
The biggest irony of this whole story is that Thompson did more damage to his own conference than he did to BYU with his silly comments.
With the walls starting to ominously rise around the so-called "Power 5" conferences, the Mountain West needs as many friends as it can get. Angering BYU's fan base won't help the conference's cause.
The second unintended consequence is potentially even more damaging. Suppose for a moment that either Boise State or Utah State have a breakthrough season and run the table in 2014. The Aggies play Tennessee, Idaho State, Wake Forest, Arkansas State and BYU in non-conference play, while Boise State faces Ole Miss, UConn, Lousiana-Lafayette and BYU. Naturally, Thompson will lobby for either team's inclusion into the new college football playoff.
Imagine Thompson standing in front of the selection committee. Undoubtedly, he'd point to the SEC win, but it's doubtful that a win over the middle-of-the-pack team even in that conference would move the needle enough to make a positive case. At any rate, BYU would be either the first- or second-toughest opponent either team will face in non-conference play so Thompson would have to try to play that win up before the committee.
Thompson would then likely hear his own words to Dodd thrown right back at his face:
“We're playing them more out of history, geography and convenience than schedule strength," Thompson told Dodd. "Now that will bite me in the (backside) but you know what I'm saying. We have a history with them."
Thompson's words could be more prophetic than he now realizes.
Whatever the reason for Thompson's statement, his words are both an empty threat and detrimental to the interests of his own conference. Perhaps the only thing the Mountain West schools should be thinking about is not whether or not to schedule BYU, but to continue to employ Thompson as commissioner.
Lafe Peavler is a staff sports writer for the Deseret News. Follow him on Twitter @LafePeavler.