It's easy to get caught up in the craziness of the Mountain West. While technically, none of this really impacts Utah now that we're on our way out, it's still riveting. Mostly because it puts our biggest rival in a very difficult position. One that could prove to be masterful or pretty damn boneheaded.
But from the developments we've seen over the last 24 hours, much of what is being reported is either wrong or the Cougars have no f'n idea what they're doing.
I'm not going to speculate on their state of mind because I just don't know exactly what BYU is thinking at the moment. However, we can deduct from the news reports that what was initially reported was most likely an overblown estimate of the Cougars making a move toward independence.
The first big news of this began trickling out Tuesday evening. It wasn't anything groundbreaking - just speculation that BYU was looking at the potential of going independent. Certainly nothing was concrete and there definitely was no indication they were even close to making a move.
Then, out of nowhere, CSU's official Twitter feed reports that BYU is bolting the Mountain West for the Western Athletic Conference in all sports but football. A huge coup for the WAC if true, because it almost certainly delivers the death knell to their biggest conference rival - the Mountain West.
This happens very quietly, though, because it's at some ungodly hour and only freaks like me are up surfing Twitter to see if anything remotely interesting is being published (I did something similar during the whole P-10 expansion extravaganza).
Later in the morning, when sane people are leading their productive lives, it comes out that the CSU Tweet was a hoax. Someone either goofed or hacked the account. This wasn't unprecedented, as BYU fans were fooled into thinking they were going to the Big 12 when an Austin station reported the move shortly before Utah's invite to the P-10 became official. The glee lasted all but a few minutes before it was debunked.
Then, last week, the main Twitter account for the Washington Huskie Rivals' page was compromised and sources had one of the top recruits in the country going to BYU. Wasn't true.
So obviously there is some pesky Ute fan out in the internet land mind-f'n every BYU fan. That's probably exactly what happened with the CSU feed, right?
The tweet was debunked. However, only a few hours later, the Salt Lake Tribune ran with its story that BYU going independent was a done deal. What's more, they would be moving their other athletic programs to the WAC - just as the CSU tweet had suggested. Their source for this was someone with the WAC. Then there was a Deseret News conformation story that used their Utah State sources as proof the Cougars were going independent and would be joining the Aggies in basketball and other major non-football sports. Yay?
But here is where it starts making absolutely no sense.
Okay, so late last night, the Mountain West invited both Fresno State and Nevada to join the conference. Both teams, without hesitation it seems, accepted the invite. During the press conferences and the subsequent teleconference with Craig Thompson, it was established discussion between the two schools had been going on for a while, but ramped up Tuesday afternoon.
So it's obvious the talk about BYU bolting the Mountain West for its own little slice of college football heaven forced the conference to make a move. No biggie. It makes sense. That's what happens with these conference expansion stories. Nebraska left for the Big Ten, starting a wave of activity that ultimately resulted in Utah leaving for the Pac Ten.
This was similar.
However, the Utah State source the Deseret News relied on for its article and the WAC source the Tribune relied on for its article did not in any way hint at the idea of Fresno State or Nevada bolting for the Mountain West. And why would they? Without those two schools, the WAC falls below the eight-team requirement needed to field a FBS conference and essentially becomes irrelevant. Wouldn't that leave BYU out in the cold when it came to finding a place to squat for its other sports?
This gets even more complex when you figure, as suggested by Thompson, that the nine current Mountain West schools voted on allowing Fresno State and Nevada into the conference. Those nine schools are the nine that will take the field this year. That includes Utah and BYU and not Boise State - though it's likely they played a role.
Do you see where I'm going with this?
Either the Deseret News' and the Tribune's sources were wrong or BYU openly voted to essentially block its most feasible exit strategy. Because, no matter how you try to make it work, the WAC is done. Certainly there isn't enough stability there to entice BYU to relocate its other programs when you take away Fresno and Nevada. Especially Nevada, which has, this past decade, been one of the conference's most impressive teams in hoops.
So what happened between the USU source telling the Deseret News and the WAC source telling the Tribune that BYU was set to take its program to the WAC and the eventual expansion of the Mountain West to include the two biggest programs left in that conference?
Confused? Yeah, I am too.
Overall, this whole fiasco makes zero sense. So something has to be there that we're not getting. Either BYU had no intention of going to the WAC or Craig Thompson called their bluff and blew up the WAC to salvage any hope of keeping BYU in the Mountain West.
Oddly, the options for both scenarios remain the same for BYU currently. If they had no interest in going to the WAC, but still planned on going independent, they probably will look at the West Coast Conference and then the Big West to hold their programs while the football team tries to recreate its 1980s magic. If Thompson called their bluff and they still intend to leave, maybe sensing the impending death of the WAC, voted to let it die by voting to allow Fresno State and Nevada to join the conference, knowing full well they were going to the WCC.
But that creates a whole new set of problems. Firstly, the WCC only fields 13 sports. That's compared to 19 from both the Mountain West and WAC. Would BYU trim its athletic program to appease its football team? That doesn't seem like the Cougar thing to do, especially when you consider how much pride they take in their lesser sports.
Then there is the whole Sunday play. Yeah, for a bunch of Christian schools, who woulda thunk they played basketball on Sundays? But they do. Would the WCC change that policy? Would BYU be exempt or compromise one of their biggest morals just to find a suitable home?
You've also got to wonder if the WCC is a better conference than the WAC with the addition of BYU. Not only do you have Utah State, who's established a fine program under Stew Morrill, but a solid New Mexico State team and, though they've faded as late, an okay Nevada squad.
That trumps the WCC, which is Gonzaga and St. Mary's a distant second.
But let's say that's the case. Let's say BYU, either originally or secondary after the Mountain West went after Fresno and Nevada, is destined for the WCC. Is it official? We've heard their commissioner will listen, but does that mean he'll ever invite?
Are they banking on a WCC invite to bring about their ability to go independent? If so, it's not hard to see that this isn't set in stone and all those stories released yesterday were nothing more than typical rumormongering without actual substance.
There you have it, folks. A very weird situation. Of course, I expect this post to be completely obsolete only minutes after posting due to another unforeseen development. If that's the case, please disregard.