Provo • BYU’s men’s basketball program “will be fine” if Gonzaga leaves the West Coast Conference for the Mountain West Conference, BYU coach Dave Rose said Monday as the Cougars began preparing to face Stanford in the NIT on Wednesday.
“Oh, yeah,” Rose said after being asked if BYU can survive in the WCC without the Zags, who have acknowledged discussing prospects of jumping to the MWC, perhaps as soon as next season. “BYU has a great tradition, a strong tradition. What we bring to the fan base and Cougar Nation is pretty unique. … This is a real brand, and it has got real power to it, and we will survive. We will have to make adjustments, but we will be fine.”
Rose said proof of the BYU fan base’s power is that “a schmuck like me” recently won a national contest called the ESPN Infinity Coaches Charity Challenge for $100,000 to benefit the Simmons Center for Cancer Research at BYU because BYU fans retweeted his candidacy more than any other school’s fan base.
Nearly two weeks ago, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported that Gonzaga and the MWC were in deep discussions, and the newspaper has since reported that the MWC presidents could vote on the Bulldogs’ inclusion as soon as early April, when the NCAA Tournament has concluded.
Those talks are “real,” Rose said Monday, alluding to conversations he has had the past few years with Gonzaga coach Mark Few.
“Obviously it will hurt our league,” Rose said. “I mean, that’s a no-brainer. You don’t need to ask me. You can answer that yourself. … But what we are going to do about it? You are asking the wrong guy.”
BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe told BYU Sports Nation, a daily television show on BYUtv, on March 1 that he wouldn’t publicly respond to the report.
“It’s just best to keep things internal,” Holmoe said. “I am surprised that [MWC commissioner] Craig Thompson didn’t keep his stuff internal.”
Rose said Monday his chats with Few and the possibility of the Zags leaving intensified after Wichita State won the Missouri Valley Conference last year and got a No. 10 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Sunday, WCC mate Saint Mary’s was left out of the NCAA Tournament after going 28-5, 16-2 in WCC play, and being ranked for most of the season.
“I think that [the Zags] are in a pretty good place right now,” Rose said. “They have gotten a one seed from this league. They just got a four seed from this league. They’ve got some issues they are trying to work out with [the WCC] right now, some scheduling issues that they’ve got on the table, and I think they would like to see those things approved in their favor. And if not, who knows? But it is real.”
Rose said the MWC “doesn’t solve all your problems” regarding the NCAAs because it would have been a one-bid league again this year if Nevada hadn’t been upset in the conference tournament. San Diego State knocked off Nevada and then defeated New Mexico for the league’s automatic bid.
“When I was told about [BYU’s move to the WCC] years ago, the one thing that brought credibility to the WCC was the consistency of Gonzaga in the Top 25 for all the years, and they had a national name and a national brand,” Rose said.
The importance of scheduling up
Rose said that if BYU and other WCC teams learned anything from the Saint Mary’s snub, it is that they must schedule tougher teams in their nonconference games.
“I think we have all learned a pretty big lesson there,” Rose said. “[Making the NCAA] Tournament is all about who you play. And so I think that is a pretty strong message to everybody who tries to get invited to that tournament.”
The 13-year coach said he has already had discussions with his staff and BYU’s administration about scheduling up.
“Maybe we need to change our scheduling pillars,” Rose said. “We have always been a team that has expected a return game, because we have a great home crowd, and we have a great product to sell here at the Marriott Center. And so we have always felt that if we go play somebody, that they should return the game. We might have to adjust that a little bit, just to try and get the opponents that we need to get.”
Rose said that Holmoe sitting on the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee the past few years will help.
“So we know where we need to go and what we need to do,” he said.
BYU in the NIT
At Maples Pavilion, Stanford,Calif.
No. 6 BYU at No. 3 Stanford, 8 p.m. MDT