Sources: BYU Bolting MWC Before September 1?

On July 31, venerable SALT LAKE DESERET NEWS columnist Dick Harmon made a compelling case that BYU would do well to leave the Mountain West Conference and go independent.

Will BYU football go independent?

With BYU’s MWC conference partner Utah gone to the Pac-10 and the school stuck in a TV deal worth a paltry $1.5 million per school - and no prospect of an immediate increase - Harmon reported that the Cougars were indeed seriously exploring that prospect.

One major reason behind the move would be existing television infrastructure available to BYU per its ministry broadcasting operation. Per Harmon, those assets include:

  • A state-of-the-art, high-definition TV studio near completion east of the Marriott Center on campus, one that will rival anything the networks have in media centers in Los Angeles and New York.
  • A high-definition TV truck for production and broadcast of sporting events. This truck is the most up-to-date found anywhere in the western United States and a tool ESPN would love to rent for events centered in the West.
  • BYU-TV, an up-and-operating station that is available on the basic entry platform of DirecTV and Dish Network and some 200 cable companies worldwide.
  • In the U.S. alone, this represents exposure to 60 million households and an estimated 40 million more in countries in South America.

For context, that infrastructure is light years ahead of what the Univ. of Texas, which will eventually launch its own cable channel, has in place. Then there’s this recent quote from BYU Athletic Director Tom Holmoe when asked about the school’s future conference affiliation:

“BYU’s been working on this for three years. We’re in an unusual position of being in the middle of things, but not on the internal area of things.

“Instead of being acted upon, we wanted to be proactive. On the other hand, we’re not Notre Dame. We can’t make demands, and we don’t have multiple invitations. So we try to make the best of this jigsaw puzzle and position ourselves now and for the future.”

Today I was told by a Salt Lake media source that BYU is indeed seriously pondering bolting the Mountain West conference. But the move would not be to go wholly independent.

Instead, BYU would affiliate with the WAC in all sports except football, which would be independent. (See Notre Dame-Big East model.)

The fact that the WAC has not yet added a replacement for Boise State is not a coincidence.

If this change is to happen, I was told it will take place before Sept. 1. Another source indicated the decision could come by Friday.

The Mountain West is well aware of BYU’s possible intentions and is feverishly pondering concessions to keep the Cougars. If BYU were to leave the MWC, the financial viability of the conference would be in serious doubt, along with its BCS aspirations.

So …. all that brings us to a very strange story that popped up in the past 48 hours that revved up rumors of BYU eschewing conference affiliation.

Harmon reported today:

It appears an announcement that Ad Systems Communications, Inc., has acquired a contract for something called “BYU Athletics Cable TV” is more mysterious than actual news.

I made phone calls to executives of the company with no success, just a myriad of messages and a matrix of recordings. The tech line.

It appears I’m not the only one checking this out.

BYU’s administration is puzzled and is investigating the claim. There is no BYU Athletics Cable TV, not even in the campus dormitories, which has its own TV feed. Similarly, BYU-TV, KBYU-TV and other campus institutions are unaware of this dealing.

It has been referred to the university’s attorneys.

More as it develops. BYU could issue a formal response.

What Harmon is referring to is a press release put out this week by a company claiming that it had struck a deal with an entity called, “BYU Athletics Cable TV.

One problem with that: BYU Athletics Cable TV doesn’t exist, at least at this moment. But with BYU due for a final decision on its conference affiliation in the next two weeks, the timing of that “mysterious” press release is intriguing to say the least.

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