The University in Provo, Utah appears to be set to leave the conference that it has called home for over 10 years, which means that the Gaels might be losing one of their fiercest rivals
By: Ryan Ford
After a decade of playing in the West Coast Conference, it looks like Saint Mary’s and the rest of the WCC are losing one of its most competitive members, Brigham Young University. Per KREM 2, BYU will be leaving the conference and likely joining the Big 12, paying the WCC $500,000 to make the move. The move will not take place until the conclusion of the 2022-2023 season.
For our men’s basketball team, this is a huge blow. The WCC, in large part due to the recent success of Gonzaga, has become one of the more well-respected mid-major conferences in all of college basketball. BYU is coached by Mark Pope, who has led the team to consecutive twenty-win campaigns and the 6th seed in last season’s March Madness. Saint Mary’s relies heavily on having quality wins (which is to say, wins against opponents who are considered to be tournament-worthy teams), and BYU has been just that.
Their men’s basketball team has failed to win 20 games just once during their time in the WCC, accumulating a 233-105 record over that span, per ESPN. Saint Mary’s has fared well against their conference rival, however, winning 14 out of the 21 games they have played against Brigham Young during that same span. Despite that somewhat lopsided number, SMC vs. BYU games have produced some of the most noteworthy moments in our basketball program’s past decade.
Who can forget the legendary game-winner from half-court by Saint Mary’s legend Matthew Dellavedova, to take down the Tyler Haws-led Cougars in 2013? Or Jordan Ford’s game-winning jump shot against BYU to clinch a spot in the 2020 WCC Championship game? Needless to say, Saint Mary’s and BYU’s rivalry definitely made its mark on the conference.
For those wondering why BYU would leave an up-and-coming league in the WCC for the Big 12, some context is needed. While Brigham Young University made the move for the West Coast Conference in 2011, their football team went independent, meaning that they didn’t belong to any conference in college football. This move to the Big 12 certainly aims to put their football program on the map, as the Big 12 has historically been a prestigious football conference. Recently, blue-chip programs Oklahoma and Texas accepted invitations to leave the Big 12 for the SEC, per ESPN. This left space for a respectable football program in BYU to make their move, one that they have likely been eyeing for a while financially.
BYU’s football program generates by far the most money out of all their sports teams. Their football program generated $23 million this past year, which led to almost $2 million in net profit for the school. The Cougars got off to a 9-0 start last season and were ranked as high as 8th in the country. They finished the 2020 season with an 11-1 record, led by QB Zach Wilson, who was drafted second overall in the NFL Draft this past April. This recent success makes them a prime candidate for replacing Oklahoma and Texas in the Big 12.
As the Saint Mary’s men’s basketball team attempts to rebound from last year’s uncharacteristically down year, they are scheduled to play BYU in Provo on January 8th, and later at home on February 19th, two games that figure to be deciding factors for the fate of the Gael’s upcoming season.
Melanie Moyer '22,