BYU Football: We’re sick of G5 conference championships

BYU doesn’t care about conference championships. They haven’t for the last several decades, and they’re not going to start now.

This week, writer Pete Fiutak made BYU Twitter’s collective head explode when he wrote the following in his 2015 BYU Football preview:

Independent for the last three seasons, things have worked out okay. BYU has had some laughs, killed some time, and it’s going through life playing college football, but for what?

What fun is going through the exercise with no carrot at the end of the stick? BYU as [sic] to go at least 11-1 and hope to get the Notre Dame-like benefit of the playoff doubt, so with no conference championship to play for, one loss makes it tough to shoot for the stars, and two losses means the season is effectively over.

He followed up this take by joining Spencer Linton and Michael Alisa on BYU Sports Nation, where he told BYU fans that G5 conference championships are worth more than post-season top 25 rankings.

I get it. Conferences have been exalted in college football. College football fans and writers have been indoctrinated since birth with the idea that what teams you’ve banded with directly reflects on the quality of your program. And when you happen to be in a Power 5 conference, winning the conference championship means you go to a big bowl that wins you a lot of respect and pays your conference a lot of money. It’s natural for guys like Pete to think a lack of a conference identity is a crisis for a football program.

But what does a G5 conference championship do for a team? A quick look at BYU’s history in “mid-major” conferences shows that the answer is: not much.

BYU has spent the better part of four decades racking up conference titles. In the 24 years directly preceding BYU’s exit from the WAC to found the Mountain West Conference, BYU won at least a share of 18 conference championships. At one point, BYU won 10 straight league titles. The Cougars slowed down a bit in the more competitive MWC, but still won 4 championships in their 13 years in that league. (In case you thought that’s not a lot, it’s exactly the number of MWC championships Utah and TCU won before being invited to the PAC-12 and Big XII, respectively). All in all, in the last four decades, BYU has averaged a conference championship every other year.

So Pete will forgive BYU fans if we don’t get giddy at the thought of winning another G5 title. BYU’s been there, done that, and literally got the t-shirt. And yet they remain on the outside of the college football power structure looking in.

For teams like Memphis, East Carolina, and Northern Illinois, who don’t have the history of winning that BYU does, conference championships are certainly a good, tangible way of marking a program’s progress. It gives the players something to be proud of and the fans something to boast. But those are marks BYU has been making for years, and now they are trying to take the next step.

National prominence–not conference dominance–is BYU’s goal. Beating teams that no one’s heard of does nothing to get the attention of football fans and pundits, but being ranked puts a team on the map. Rankings are the pulse of college football, representing a weekly evaluation of the entire sport. Being on that list means you’re getting people’s attention. Just about every college football fan keeps a close eye on the top 25 rankings, but hardly any monitor the G5 standings. And at the end of the year, from a national perspective, the rankings are the gold standard of the strength of a program.

So Mr. Fiutak can continue writing that BYU is constantly a loss or two from an exhibition season (by the way, he wrote the exact same thing last year), but the fact remains that G5 membership and G5 championships will never get BYU where it wants to go. Only playing–and beating–the best teams on the biggest stages will get them there. And since, for now, independence is the only way to do that, it’s “Indy or Bust” for the BYU Cougars.

Put that on a t-shirt.

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.


Click here to post a comment
  • A conf championship every other year huh? Yeah that’s a nice way of painting a nice rosy picture isn’t it?! Too bad that isn’t based in reality where those came for the most part in the 70’s and 80’s. But nice try dragging that success from those years to the present, pretty typical really of byu fans still living off of the 80’s teams and not at all in reality of byus current situation and standing.

    • Go away consonant king. You’re a hater so your opinion is worthless, meaningless, and trite. You also have zero clue about how BYU football and BYU sports work in general. BYU athletics will (must) compete and excel in whatever situation it finds itself in or it will find itself sitting on the shelf next to the old Ricks College athletic program. Personally, I believe the BYU football program’s best days are ahead of it. But only time will tell.

      This article accurately portrays the history of BYU football since the LaVell Edwards era and using collective data over that period of time to paint a picture of a program’s success is absolutely apropos.

      Now go back to your Ute cave and watch your Sugar Bowl replays.

    • Sure, BYU won more conference championships in the 70s and 80s, but that is the entire point of the article. Going back to G5 status is simply stupid. While I am sure BYU would like to join a P5 conference, I think they are probably OK with where they are now. Yes, a path to a championship or a good bowl game is more difficult because there is much less room for error, but the path for ANY P5 conference member is difficult as well. Independence seems to be a good fit for BYU because of their rather unique situation. They get to do what they want, go where they want, and they don’t have to share the money.

  • Andy,

    How refreshing your article is. You have the correct vision for BYU.
    I could not agree more, with your article, at this time in our football history.

    Belonging to a G5 conference for any reason, is not where we are.
    We have been there. We have done that, and like TCU and like the Utah Utes,
    it is time to put forth the effort to move on.

    We must go forward and not backward, lest we be cowards like the toothless tiger with the loud roar that fools nobody but ourselves,

    We will lose respect from everyone in the football fan world of sports. For our Cougars to go back to the G5 conference leaves them toothless. They will have lost their roar, and so will most of the fans. After all, what will the fans have to roar about, when we admit ourselves to be quitters? We will be admitting that we are not as good as TCU and we are not as good as the Utah Utes. I just don’t believe that. It just takes a lot of work to catch up and maybe pass them again.

    Getting another G5 conference Championship is absolutely meaningless,
    and the thought of going back, like a coward, in stead of forward like TCU
    and like the Utah Utes, is disgusting.

    We use to be peers with TCU and the Utes. Now some say it is too hard to keep up. They want the easy way out. They want to give up the fight. They like it better being champions of nobody, being guaranteed continious bowls year after year, after year, assuring our success by scheduling FCS teams like Idaho, Idaho State, Weber State, Savanna State and now Wagner. Scheduling FCS teams is always somebody else’s fault. We never accept responsibility for our own actions. Just Say No !!!!

    Even getting a New Years Day Bowl is far down the list of importance.

    What is important, is that we do everything it takes, and make every sacrifice
    that it takes, to be recognized as not just a P5 Independent team for programing purposes, but to be recognized as a P5 Independent team period. (Yes, like Notre Dame). We accomplish that goal, by acting ever bit as much like a P5 Independent team
    as any P5 team that is in a P5 conference. We program like a P5 team, (9) P5 teams per season or more. And——never again, program a FCS team. JUST SAY NO.

    Dop not let anyone ever again identify us, in any way, with theG5 conference teams.
    We have a head start over all other G5 teams, by being recognized as a P5 Independent team for programing purposes. We can not give up that advantage.
    We must go forward from that point until it is obvious, when the next P5 conference opening is available, that the only two choices is ND and BYU. ND is in no hurry to join a conference so that leaves us, if we work for it. We have learned that nothing else, but the said sacrifices, and paying our dues, has worked for us in the past and it won’t in the future. We have to earn it.