Viewpoint: Has independence been worth it?

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By Dallin Turner

The 2011 BYU football season will be one to be remembered. Although it won’t always remembered for the best things.

So many things happened this season, it’s hard to know where to begin to sum it up.

For me, I will avoid talking about Jake Heaps and all of the other exciting stories from this year, and instead will go back to the beginning and talk about independence.

[media-credit name=”Luke Hansen” align=”alignleft” width=”300″][/media-credit]
Corby Eason hangs on to Ole Miss' Donte Moncrief in BYU's first game as an independent football team.
When Utah announced it would go to the Pac-12, BYU fans didn’t have too long to feel left out, because BYU became an independent school soon after. This led to all of us Cougar fans immediately talking ourselves into independence.

We would be free from the Mountain West and its low-quality opponents and even lower-quality TV stations. We would have the freedom to schedule games against better teams and in more lucrative destinations. We would be in a better position to play in a BCS game.

Or so we thought.

The season started with a one-point win at Ole Miss and a one-point loss at Texas. We were pretty optimistic at that point and had been praising independence for allowing us to travel to such high-profile places.

And then we played our first home game of the season against our rivals — the Utes.

The game started with fireworks, a 100-yard American flag and the marching band playing the theme from Independence Day. And then they kicked the ball off.

Ugh …

Independence slowly started to lose its luster — especially when rumors started to swirl about BYU joining the Big 12. We started to dream about being in a power conference, but those dreams were quickly squashed, and we had to start talking ourselves back into independence.

But by that point, things were fine. Riley Nelson had saved the season and things were fun and entertaining. Until we started to get tired with late-start games in cold months against mediocre-at-best opponents.

I know of at least one fan who has owned eight expensive season tickets for many years and decided after the New Mexico State game (which started at 8:15 p.m.) that he’d had enough. He lives north of Salt Lake City, and with the terrible traffic, getting home at a reasonable time to wake up early for church is just too difficult.

Not all Cougar fans had experiences that bad, but many began dreaming about the joys of conference play when the Big East came calling.

Meanwhile, the Utes were having an exciting finish to their first Pac-12 season. Although they started off with four big conference losses, through a strange series of events, they found themselves still in contention for a spot in the Pac-12 championship game. Ute fans excitedly stayed up late at night to watch Cal and Arizona State play, while BYU had no such connections to any other teams.

Unfortunately (or fortunately), the Big East deal fell through just in time for us to go back to praising independence for allowing us to travel to Hawaii.

So now the season is over, and it’s time to ask ourselves if being independent has been worth it so far.

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