Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2010 | 2 p.m.
It appears imminent the Mountain West Conference will to absorb its second major membership blow in two months, as sources are indicating that BYU will become independent in football and join the Western Athletic Conference in all other sports.
The Salt Lake Tribune reported this morning that the scenario is a 'done deal.'
The pending move would take place in the fall of 2011 and could leave the Mountain West in a bind.
A source in the WAC office told the Tribune that BYU will seek final approval for the move from its owner — the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — either today or Thursday. If approved, a press conference will come early next week.
"In light of the media leaks, it may be expedited a bit," the source told the Tribune.
The move to become an independent in football reportedly has been in the works for roughly a month. The major motivation behind it is believed to be displeasure with the Mountain West's TV deal, which paid member schools a mere $2 million in revenues last year.
The process gained steam when in-state rival Utah accepted an invite to the Pac-10 last month, which also will take effect in 2011. The Utes are projected to make more than $15 million annually in football TV revenue as Pac-10 members.
Clearly feeling spurned by the Pac-10 and Big 12 during the expansion frenzy this summer, BYU will look to grow TV revenue from football as an independent by utilizing its own television network, which now has a broadcast center in place.
In essence, the Cougars are going the Notre Dame route. The Irish are independents in football and have a lucrative, exclusive television deal with NBC, while affiliating with the Big East in all other sports.
Now, the Mountain West appears to be handcuffed, in a way.
Boise State is slated to join the league in 2011, which would give the MWC eight members. However, Boise State has the right to change its mind and return to the WAC. In the Tribune's report, the WAC office source confirmed that Boise State could return without facing a penalty.
Further expansion for the Mountain West could be tricky, too, as the remaining WAC schools a week ago signed a five-year agreement that would force leaving members to pay a $5 million buyout during that window. That, obviously, includes Nevada-Reno and Fresno State, who both have been expansion targets of the MWC's in recent months.