Mountain West, BYU continue to talk

August 24, 2010
photo - Mountain West Conference commissioner Craig Thompson has had “friendly conversations” with BYU. Photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Mountain West Conference commissioner Craig Thompson has had “friendly conversations” with BYU. Photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS 

The Mountain West is still waiting on BYU’s next move.

In the past couple of weeks, BYU has explored becoming an independent in football while moving its other sports to another conference. The biggest lingering issue is television distribution, and BYU’s desire to rebroadcast or simulcast its games on carriers that don’t have The mtn., the conference’s network. BYU has its own network, BYUtv, on many television platforms and goes out to about 60 million households. The mtn. is in about 6-to-7 million households. BYU could also be interested in a contract with ESPN to televise its football games.

MWC commissioner Craig Thompson, who attended the “Building a Great City Through Sports” luncheon at The Broadmoor on Tuesday, said he was in discussions with BYU and also the conference’s television partners (CBS College Sports Network and Comcast, which own The mtn.) in recent days.

“We’re trying to see what can be resolved,” Thompson said.

The Cougars are still a part of the conference. If they are to leave for the 2011-12 school year, they would have to notify the conference by Sept. 1. Their future remains a mystery.

“They have some major concerns with the television contracts,” Thompson said. “But I’m not going to put words in their mouth, I don’t know (what BYU will do).”

Thompson characterized recent talks with BYU as “friendly conversations.” Mutually beneficial options for a resolution are unclear. Redistribution would probably need some concessions from the television partners.

“Exclusivity is very important to those distribution agreements,” Thompson said.

Letting BYU’s other sports stay in the Mountain West while football competes as an independent isn’t an option. The league’s constitution bylaws state that every conference member has to compete in four core sports: football, volleyball and men’s and women’s basketball.

And making financial concessions to BYU, like giving the Cougars a bigger slice of the revenue, hasn’t been discussed.

“There have been no discussions about any kind of disproportionate sharing of revenue,” said Air Force Superintendent Lt. Gen. Mike Gould, who is also chair of the MWC board of directors, after Tuesday’s luncheon.

Gould said he didn’t know what BYU would do, either, but he was excited about the conference’s future, especially after adding Fresno State and Nevada last week.

“With or without Brigham Young, we’re confident we have a strong conference,” Gould said.

Thompson, who met with Conference USA commissioner Britton Banowsky last week to exchange ideas, said there are no current plans to form a partnership with that conference.

The Mountain West would be stronger with BYU, which is probably the conference’s most visible member. Certainly, the hopes of getting an automatic qualification to the Bowl Championship Series would take a major hit if BYU leaves.

“We are a better business model with BYU,” Thompson said.

“I don’t know what their line of thinking is today.”

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