BYU Football: “Boise State model” not the answer

BYU hopes to emulate Notre Dame's success as an FBS independent.

Can we just stop this “let’s go back to the Mountain West” ridiculousness? I understand that BYU fans would love a little extra access to the College Football Playoff, and I understand that Utah fans love to poke fun at the Cougars. But the idea of BYU re-joining Wyoming and UNLV is getting way more traction than it ever deserved.

Those clamoring for MWC re-admittance point to the “Boise State model” as Exhibit A. Play one or two quality non-conference games, beat up on inferior conference opponents, finish the year undefeated, and skate into a major bowl game (and win it). And it’s tough to argue with that recipe; the Broncos have won two BCS bowls and a New Year’s 6 bowl in the last decade.

But at what price? Trips to Laramie every other year? A regular season of obscurity and irrelevance? Is it really better to beat New Mexico and Fresno State every year than to get the chance to play the likes of Nebraska, Michigan, UCLA, Michigan State, LSU, and Missouri? The BYU fan experience is exponentially better as an independent, especially now that the long term contracts Tim Holmoe signed years ago are coming to fruition.

And let’s not over-inflate the value of G5 membership. Although all BCS busters except one (Boise State in the 2009-2010 Fiesta Bowl) have earned their BCS bowl bids through the automatic bid created for non-AQ conferences, all but one did it with an undefeated record (Northern Illinois in the 2012-2013 season). That means that the extra access non-AQs got in the BCS didn’t really help them that much; they almost certainly would have earned most of their BCS bids at-large.

I must concede, however, that the G5 conferences have better access under the CFP system than they did in the BCS years. Specifically, the highest ranked G5 team gets a New Year’s 6 bid no matter what, whereas non-AQ teams only got an automatic BCS bid if they were ranked in the top 12 or ranked in the top 16 and above an AQ conference champ. It must be admitted, then, that membership in a G5 conference is more valuable now than it was during the BCS years.

But not much. Sure, Boise State benefitted greatly from the G5 auto-bid this year, but going forward that will likely be the exception, not the rule. As was the case throughout the history of the BCS, most years the top-ranked G5 team will earn its spot on its own merits, meaning BYU won’t be able to get away with a 2- or 3-loss season and still hope to make it to a NY6 bowl. Even as a G5 member, BYU would have to go undefeated (or maybe have one loss to, say, UCLA in Pasadena) most years to have any realistic dream of going to a NY6.

BYU is charting a new course, creating the “BYU model,” if you will. Instead of getting respect by winning a lot of easy games and a few tough ones, they have opted to play a riskier schedule against elite competition. Realistic BYU fans understand that this will undoubtedly result in fewer wins than they are used to. But Holmoe and company are betting that the heavy exposure, relationships with top-tier programs and conference, and occasional victories against elite teams will earn BYU the respect they feel they deserve and put them in position to benefits from the next big conference shakeup. It also helps that BYU doesn’t have to share its ESPN money with a dozen other teams.

Aside from the obviously more entertaining nature of independence, the BYU model has a better chance of leading to a P5 invitation than the Boise State model. After all, if winning a lot of games is all it took, the Broncos would have been invited long ago. And yet, here they are, filling the spot of MWC powerhouse left vacant when Utah, TCU, and BYU left.

They can keep that spot. The best, most lucrative, and most entertaining path to inclusion for BYU is independence.

Update: A previous version of this article stated that Utah and Boise State earned their BCS bids at large. That has been corrected.

About the author

Andy Kartchner

I have a Ph.D. in sports analytics. No I don’t. But I do have a law degree. And if there’s one thing I learned in law school, it’s how to write about sports.

I am Big Bro. My brother, Aaron (a.k.a. Little Bro), and I make up the Sports Bros, your one-stop shop for everything BYU sports.

  • adam

    No one in the BYU staff floats the idea of returning to the MWC, only the paranoids do that. That said, you forgot to add a major reason why a G5 conference won’t work for BYU. Boise State and others like them will always be shunned from a national title opportunity. G5 gives greater NY6 access, but Independence gives greater playoff access. And to the wise BYU fans playing for a NY6 bowl only, without hopes for a real championship, isn’t an option and destructive to the program.

  • Realistic Optimist

    Floyd, It was not I that used Boise State as a model. I agree with you that Boise State can not be the mode. I did say, that Boise State, along with Hawaii, Houston, TCU and Utah Utah State all got BCS Bowls and we did not. TCU and BYU were rewarded by getting P5 conferences. (Big 12/Pac 12) I went on to say that Boise State had a better
    Win/Loss vs. us than we have vs. them.

    Here’s the important part of what I said: With all the success of BCS that we have not had
    As an Independent, we are a P5 Independent team which is for the good of and helps the programing of P5 conference teams that must have 3 non conference games outside their own conference.

    As a G5 conference team, with all the recent success, this past decade, they are still considered a mid major team, while we, as an Independent, with less success this past decade, and for reasons stated, are considered a P5 team for programing purposes.

    My point was that if we go back to the MWC, or to any other G5 conference, we will also be going back to a mid major status and we will lose that P5 significance.

    • Realistic Optimist

      Correction, not a reply.

      First Paragraph:
      Line 3 above should say Utah Utes, not Utah Utah State.

      Second paragraph: line one, should read as follows:
      With all the success of BCS that Boise State has had, that we have not had as an Independent,

      I apologize for not proof reading before posting. Sorry.

  • critteronacage

    There is a MASSIVE hole in your logic here.

    “…the chance to play the likes of Nebraska, Michigan, UCLA, Michigan State, LSU, and Missouri?”

    What if BYU loses every single one of those games? Or even goes 2-4? The argument changes. No offense, but “the chance to play” isn’t going to get you anywhere. Winning will. Yea it’s cool that BYU can schedule tough opponents, no one discredits that. But what happens when you can’t win those games? If history is any indication, BYU going 4-2 against those teams would be an amazing feat, but still not good enough to get them to NY6, let alone a the CFP.

    I am not necessarily saying that the MWC is the answer. But don’t use the “Look who we have the chance to play!” as the reason. It’s flawed.

  • UWrules

    I find it hilarious that only goobs from the state of Utard are bringing up this “Back to the MWC” nonsense. Did BYU put out some desperate, silent feelers to some of the media types in that state to “plant the seed”?? LOL

    Go away, BYU. You are insufferable and radioactive. Everyone likes where you are now, except for Utah fans.