Bronco Mendenhall declared his goal for BYU football was to win a national championship. This article, and more to follow, will examine how that can happen and what BYU, fans, administration and the football program needs to do to accomplish that goal. It is not as easy as, "we just need to win all our games."
Winning games against Savannah State will not get you invited to the big dance. Those interested in attending the big dance are lining up in new conferences, and alining themselves with the competition that will be recognized by the selection committee that will get them there. Reference Notre Dame with the ACC (certainly a smart move with the win by Florida State). Cougar fans wonder what the heck will happen to the boys in BYU blue.
Texas A&M and Missouri made a move to the SEC with a decision that will align them for decades. The BYU independence decision in football appears to be a similar decision with the long view in mind. The WCC move is obviously not a part of that long view and I will tell you why in a different article because we are talking football here.
In making the long view decision BYU had to not only look ahead, but look back at the last 100 years and see what made the great schools of today great. Perusing the bowl games from the last 90 years consistent names jump out at you. They include of course the Pac-6/8 teams, the teams that make up the SEC, Notre Dame and a smattering of other teams including Duke, Georgia Tech and Clemson.
However, for an independent there is only one school that stands out as the blue print for BYU, that is unquestioningly Notre Dame. Any school looking to achieve top tier status in the sports world in the next 100 years must look at what Notre Dame has done. Chief among their accomplishments, and key to their continued success as an independent has been financial success.
The first hurdle for BYU to overcome on their road to success is funding.
Financial Independence - BYU sports can't depend on the widow's mite. They must schedule teams that will bring them the revenue that will pay for the program. USC and Oregon, both big repeaters in the Rose Bowl, recently finished new athletic facilities. USC got the $70 million John McKay athletic facilities center and not to be outdone Oregon spent $68 million on new facilities. Oklahoma State raised the assistant football coaches combined salaries from $727,008 by 30 percent to over a $1 million. T. Boone Pickens, an alumnus, donated $165 million that renovated the football stadium and upgraded athletic facilities. They are among collegiate athletics best. See the Sports Illustrated article.
The church coffers can't compete with that. They are supported by the widow's mite which cannot be squandered on athletic facilities. It is reprehensible to think that an elderly couple living on a meager fixed retirement income with their home heat at 62 degrees, eating only 2 meals a day, and paying their tithing would support lavish facilities for men and women to have their rent paid, all the heat and food they want and a college education just to play sports. The ethical aspect of that doesn't add up.
There are several couples like that in the local ward and you have to look at them and wonder how they are going to eat, get through the winter, or take care of their health. The BYU athlete needs to realize the widow's mite isn't and can't support him. He must perform at a level that makes the program self supporting.
There are a number of BYU alumni who like T. Boone could afford to chip in and create a fund that could match what Oklahoma State, USC and Oregon have done. I won't name names. The point is if BYU is to be competitive, then its facilities must be competitive to attract the best talent. The aforementioned universities are the prime example that success comes with money.
The Marriott Center is a nationally prominent facility supported by a top 6 place in attendance nationwide for 2012. But there is room for improvement. If it were full for each game, it would be second only to Kentucky in attendance. This facility allows for top talent nationwide to take notice of the BYU basketball program. Teams like to play in front of 22,500 fans, even in away games. It also looks great on TV. The Marriott Center is a revenue generator as well as talent generator. Ticket sales, and secondary concession sales provide money for the program that the granite building in Salt Lake doesn't need to provide. The same can be said for all other venues, and especially BYU football. BYU has the opportunity to have 12 televised games a year, and if they played Hawaii, 13. There is a little known clause that says if your conference doesn't have a playoff game you can add a game. BYU could conceivably play a 14 game schedule then if worthy add a bowl game.
If more LDS were watching BYU ratings would go up, and ESPN would pay BYU more.
Independence in football provides the opportunity for control of income, schedules and opponents. The better the opponents, the better audience, the greater the revenue. Savannah State and Idaho State doesn't do it. Which brings us back to ESPN and the golden gift.
ESPN has given BYU an eight year contract with a guarantee of broadcast for games of quality and a payout around $10 million. All it wants is a game people will watch. BYU is squandering both revenue and opportunity by scheduling teams ESPN does not see as viable draws. BYU has the opportunity to schedule games at will on any night they want. Look what Thursday and Friday nights did for Boise State. Freedom to schedule a game on the days and weeks you want at the times you want, instead of being dictated to by a conference, is a major advantage.
Can BYU win a football championship? Yes it can if it meets certain criteria for excellence. The first is financial support that makes it independent of church tithing and church support. The financial support needs to include large donations to provide world class facilities. If we want a national championship in football, we have to be willing to pay for it up front in national championship level facilities. To do it, BYU will need help from the fan and student base worldwide. Let's kick the ball off and start the fund for new facilities and new stadium. Mitt Romney, the Marriott family, Steve Young, and many others could step forward and coordinate such a drive as well as donate to the fund to get it going. Here's the call, $320 million by 2020. That's the price of a national championship in dollars and cents.
As ye sow, so shall ye reap. I leave you with that thought and a picture of excellence that shows what we need to do to win. Kyle Van Noy intercepting at Notre Dame.