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Will BYU become an independent?

According to this story from ESPN.com, BYU is close to leaving the Mountain West Conference and becoming an independent for football. In a related move, BYU's other sports teams would rejoin the Western Athletic Conference.

On the surface, this move isn't too surprising. Once in-state rival Utah decided to leave the Mountain West and join the Pac-10, which will happen next season, back in June, BYU absolutely had to consider its options.

Apparently, BYU's thinking is that becoming an independent is the best move at this time.

But is it?

If BYU becomes an independent. the Cougars are not guaranteed anything in terms of the BCS. Yes, BYU isn't guaranteed anything from the BCS by remaining in the Mountain West, since the conference does not have an automatic qualifying bid.

Notre Dame, also an independent, has an agreement that allows it to qualify for BCS bowls based on certain criteria. But don't think for a minute that BYU can position itself for a similar scenario. It's simply not happening.,

That takes us to today's other intriguing news involving the Mountain West. Multiple media outlets are reporting that the Mountain West has extended invites to Fresno State and Nevada, both WAC schools, to join the conference. So how do we read this?

Well, the Mountain West is certainly taking a proactive approach. If the loss of BYU is imminent, the Mountain West is making sure it adds some schools to offset the loss. It could also be the conference's attempt to convince BYU that staying put would be beneficial.

With BYU, TCU, Boise State, which will leave the WAC after this season and join the Mountain West, Fresno State and Nevada, you have the potential for a pretty good football conference. You could make the argument that this revamped Mountain West is as good or even better than the Big East, which does have an automatic qualifying bid for the BCS. TCU and Boise State will be top 10 teams in most of the preseason rankings.

Perhaps this new Mountain West could earn an automatic qualifying bid for the BCS. As an independent, BYU would need to finish in the top 2 of the BCS rankings to earn a spot in the BCS title game. That's the best BYU could do as an independent in terms of the BCS.

Plus, there is a twist in the Rose Bowl this season. If the Big Ten champion qualifies for the national game, the Rose Bowl has to take a school from a non-qualifying BCS conference that is ranked in the top 12 of the final BCS rankings for their game. As an independent, BYU would not have this opportunity.

BYU's potential independence is risky, to say the least.

And with the losses of Boise State, Fresno State and Nevada, the WAC doesn't look as appealing for BYU's other sports teams.

The bottom line, as pointed out in the ESPN.com story, is that the Mountain West will do whatever it can to keep BYU, including throwing in more television dollars.

Sure, BYU knows more than we do. Maybe they believe they will get an invite to a better conference when the next wave of shuffling and expansion happens. It wouldn't be a stretch to think the Big 12 could have BYU and TCU in its plans to replace Nebraska and Colorado.

Certainly possible. And what we learned during those 10 frantic days in June is that anything is the current landscape of college athletics.

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