Brigham Young University has decided to join the West Coast Conference and will start competing within the conference starting next year, the 2011-2012 season. BYU made the decision last week after going independent in football while leaving the Mountain West Conference. The Cougars will compete in baseball, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s golf, women’s soccer, men’s and women’s tennis and women’s volleyball. So what does this mean for the WCC and more specifically USF?
This is a significant move for the West Coast Conference because BYU is perennially a top ranked program, which strengthens the competition in the WCC. The WCC is not a big-time conference with powerhouse athletic programs but the conference has certainly become deeper and more competitive with the addition of BYU. In an interview with KNBR, head Basketball coach Rex Walters discussed the benefits of adding BYU to the WCC, citing that the move solidifies the conference and “raises the bar for the entire league in terms of what you have to do to be successful.” Walters also thinks the move will help USF basketball because it will allow them to recruit more, saying “kids want to play against good teams, kids want to fill like they’re [playing] in a high-profile league and this definitely boosts our image in a tremendous way.” Also, having to play BYU every season strengthens your schedule, which is important if you’re trying to make the postseason. During the basketball season USF will play Gonzaga, St.Mary’s and BYU (all of which made the NCAA tournament, with St.Mary’s advancing to the Sweet 16), who are all very competitive programs that rank in the top 25 each season. The WCC usually isn’t a large draw for out of conference scheduling because it has been viewed as a weaker conference, but now with BYU joining, the WCC teams don’t have to place a high importance on out of conference games since the league is significantly more competitive. And this is true for every sport in the WCC that BYU will compete in. The move strengthens the league from top to bottom, making the WCC much more respectable and competitive.
BYU signed an eight-year contract with ESPN that will allow the network to televise the school’s Football games. Yeah, I know USF doesn’t have a football team but anytime you can add a team to your league that regularly plays on television it’s a huge win. Playing on television puts BYU’s name out there to a wider audience, drawing in more recruits to the conference because student’s want to play on television. Although the other BYU sports don’t have a T.V. contract with ESPN, they will still get exposure because of BYUtv, the university television station that broadcasts worldwide. The station obviously isn’t in the same caliber as ESPN but it still broadcasts to a large audience, giving exposure to USF and the rest of the WCC that otherwise wouldn’t be available. The Gonzaga-BYU games should definitely be nationally televised, given each program’s success recently, which is great because those teams will showcase the talent of the WCC. I think this will help tremendously with recruiting, potential recruits will now be able to be sold on playing on television, who could turn that down?
Finally the Mormon community will greatly raise attendance and viewer ship for the WCC. BYU, if you didn’t know already, has the largest population of Mormon students than any other university. In 2009 alone, there were 32,516 Mormon students enrolled in the school. There are approximately 5.7 million Mormons in the United States, that’s a lot of people, who most likely are fans of BYU. BYU always sells out games, the fans are extremely loyal and are always present, even during road games. I don’t think War Memorial is all of sudden going to be packed with BYU fans and Mormons but the fact that millions of people relate to BYU and its values will mean that anytime BYU plays the stands will be packed. People want to see them play and having such a strong relationship to a religious group is a large factor in why BYU is a well-known program that sells out games.
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