ESPN fuels rumor about BYU’s return to Mountain West Conference

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Maryland left the Atlantic Coast Conference for the Big Ten and Rutgers left the Big East for the Big Ten. These are just the most recent moves in college conference realignment, and speculation has now arisen about whether San Diego State, Boise State and BYU might return to the Mountain West Conference. Boise State and San Diego State officially leave the MWC and join the Big East in July 2013.

ESPN reported on Monday that “Boise State, San Diego State and BYU have had conversations with Mountain West membership about the possibility of returning to the league…”

San Diego officials maintain they are committed to the Big East, even as it weakens as schools depart for other conferences. Boise State’s motive in joining the Big East was to gain greater access to a BCS bowl game, as those chances dwindle with the weakening Big East, they may start to look elsewhere for BCS access.

“Our president has just been on a call with Boise State, and they haven’t had any communication with the Mountain West, either, and the president at BYU (Cecil Samuelson) hasn’t had communication with them either,” San Diego State Athletic Director Jim Sterk told the San Diego Union-Tribune.

BYU Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall told reporters on Monday he “didn’t know anything about it (returning to the MWC).” And BYU’s athletic department has long maintained the stance of not commenting on conjecture.

ESPN chronicled BYU’s conference departure in its reporting: BYU left the MWC in September 2010 to go independent and signed a contract with ESPN through 2018. If BYU were to join any conference, whether it is the MWC or the Big East, the question remains whether ESPN would let BYU out of its contract, worth $4 million a year.

ESPN’s Brett McMurphy reported, “BYU wouldn’t be able to earn that much in the Mountain West, but the Cougars could be interested in returning to a conference because it would get greater access to a major bowl berth.”

However, Mendenhall said bowl access for the Cougars would be about the same.

“It’s about the same access we had before, the way I see it,” Mendenhall said. “We still have to be undefeated, I think, to be considered.”

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