Should BC explore independence?
With another conference shuffle looming and BC's position totally up in the air, I started to wonder if BC should explore football independence. We spent the majority of our history as an independent and now -- with new media solutions and an influx of cash -- football independence is actually an option again. The issues as always are about money and perception. Could BC improve our football revenue as an independent and would independence make us more or less relevant? Keep those questions in mind as we look at all the considerations for independence.
Basketball and non-revenue sports
If BC were to go independent in football, we would still need a conference for all of our other sports. Fortunately we have a logical home -- the current basketball schools in the Big East. While not as lucrative as the ACC hoops schools, this would still be a relevant basketball conference. Plus we have a lot of history with all of them and they are all in our geographic footprint. This would be like playing in the original Big East.
This might not be as bad as you might think. Assume the indies would all stick together, that means that Notre Dame, BYU, Army, Navy and Texas would be on the slate on an annual or near annual basis. Then assume we book long series with UMass and Syracuse. Then BC could lock in a mix of two elite BCS schools every year and a few middle of the pack BCS schools every year. It would obviously involve a lot more work and deal making than we currently need, but I think a home schedule of ND, UMass, Navy, Syracuse, Michigan, UNH and Wake Forest would sell as well as next year's schedule of Notre Dame, Rhode Island, Army, Clemson, Miami, Maryland, and Virginia Tech.
Huge unknown here. BC has produced consistently strong ratings and is in a major media market. On the flipside though, BC is not a national brand. Would ESPN or one of its competitors pay $15 million or more for BC's home games? I could see Comcast New England paying a big fee for the rights and sharing the distribution with Versus/NBC Cable for the bigger games. These conversations should be had, but BC should never make a serious move without some hard assurances on the value of the deal.
Losing access to the BCS or the ACC's bowl slots might be a big deal to other schools, but it shouldn't be for BC. We will never get prime bowls in any conference. If we were to go independent we could string together a series of invites to the San Franciscos and San Diegos of the world just like Army and Navy do now. Also, while in theory the ACC provides us a path to the BCS, being independent might be as viable. As an independent we could pad our schedule Boise State style and only win one or two games against top teams to earn respect and computer rankings.
This is where I think BC would take the biggest risk. BYU and Notre Dame have natural pipelines they can use to recruit. While BC has succeeded with the same type of kid for decades, I think not having a conference affiliation would hurt our sales pitch. Right now we sell top level football with a top level education. As in independent that pitch becomes a bit hollow unless we are really kicking ass.
If I knew BC was willing to employ an aggressive style of play and smart scheduling, I think independence could work. But the reality is that our current leadership wouldn't embrace this type of risk. There is a level of safety in a conference even if it means playing with a bunch of schools we left seven years ago. In the end our reputation and TV market will always keep us in the game. Let's hope we like how this iteration of musical chairs plays out.