PROVO UT - SEPTEMBER 1: BYU Athletic Director Tom Holmoe announces that BYU football will become independent in football in 2011 separating from the Mountain West Conference September 1 2010 in Provo Utah. The remaining BYU sports will become affiliated with the West Coast Conference in 2011. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
After a few weeks of rumors and assessment by school administrators looking for the best possible move for the athletic department and university as a whole, BYU officially joined the West Coast Conference today. So if you're scoring at home, college basketball fans, you have just incurred at least a few additional groggy winter mornings.
Despite being a non-BCS conference school, BYU is one of the few national brands in college sports. "Opening up the Salt Lake City-Provo market to the WCC is a major coup for the league -- which makes it hard to ignore what a significant blow this is to the MWC," writes ESPN's Andy Katz.
Thirteen million mormons spread out from coast-to-coast will do that, meaning the West Coast Conference can expect a spike in television revenues with their newest member (BYUtv is broadcasted to 40 million homes in 12 states), and opposing conference foes can plan on packing the house when both Gonzaga and the Cougars roll into town. By going independent in football, the school also landed a six-year series with Notre Dame and an eight-year deal with ESPN.
So where does the WCC rank in the hierarchy of college basketball? The 13th toughest conference last season, according to RealTimeRPI.com, they have now far outclassed the Horizon League and CAA, and are now comfortably part of that second/third tier of leagues alongside the Atlantic 10, Missouri Valley, and the identity-seeking Conference USA.