How BYU Football Has Fared In First Year Of Conferences

May 15, 2023, 3:58 PM

BYU Football, First Year, Conference...

The 2023 season will be the first for BYU football as a member of the Big 12. Looking back at BYU's first years in conferences, including the Mountain West. (Mandatory Credit: Tom Hauck /Getty Images)

(Mandatory Credit: Tom Hauck /Getty Images)

PROVO, Utah – BYU football joining the Big 12 Conference is a historic move for the Cougars. It will be the sixth different league that BYU has been a member of in football.

From 2011 to 2022, BYU played as an FBS Independent program, with all its Olympic sports competing in the West Coast Conference.

As BYU gears up for the first year in the Big 12, let’s look back on how BYU has fared in year one of the other conferences they have been part of on the gridiron.

1922 – Rocky Mountain Conference

Record: 1-5 overall, same in the conference

BYU’s first year of football was in 1922. They began playing football in the Rocky Mountain Conference. Before being invited into the Big 12 in 2021, the RMC is the last time Brigham Young University athletics were invited into a league.

BYU won one game in 1922 that was against the Wyoming Cowboys.

Teams in the Rocky Mountain Conference in 1922: Utah, Colorado, Utah State, Colorado Mines, Colorado State, Colorado College, Denver, and Wyoming.

1938 – Mountain States Athletic Conference

Record: 4-3-1 overall, 3-2-1 in MSAC

The Rocky Mountain Conference name went by the wayside, and the Mountain States Athletic Conference name was born. BYU finished with a winning record for only the sixth time since the program began in 1922.

1948 – Skyline Conference

Record: 5-6 overall, 1-3 in Skyline

When Colorado left for the Big 8 Conference, the league turned into the Skyline Conference with Utah, Utah State, Colorado State, Denver, and Wyoming. As a result, they were known as the “Skyline Six.” BYU finished near the bottom of the league, with their lone league victory coming against Wyoming.

1962 – WAC

Record: 4-6 overall, 2-2 in WAC

BYU was one of the founding members of the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) in 1962. The league membership consisted of BYU, Arizona, Arizona State, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming.

BYU grew its brand as a member of the WAC. But in the early years of the league, they were near the bottom of the league.

In the first year of the WAC, New Mexico claimed the conference crown.

1996 – 16-team WAC

Record: 14-1 overall, 9-0 in WAC 

WAC Champions, Mountain Division Champs

In today’s college football, all the rage is getting conferences up to 16 teams. But, if you go back more than a quarter century ago, the WAC put together a wild idea to have a 16-team league that spanned from Hawaii to Houston, Texas.

After the Southwest Conference dissolved, the WAC pounced at the opportunity to pick up TCU, Rice, and SMU. Plus, they added Independent Tulsa and Big West members UNLV and San Jose State. The league spanned five time zones, 4,000 miles, and was located in nine states.

BYU’s time in the 16-team WAC was successful, especially in 1996. They won the WAC Mountain Division title and then beat Pacific Division champion Wyoming in the first-ever WAC Championship Game in Las Vegas in front of a network television audience.

BYU finished the 1996 season with a Cotton Bowl victory over Kansas State and was No. 5 in the final AP Top 25 poll.

1999 – Mountain West Conference

Record: 8-4 overall, 5-2 in MWC

Tied for MWC Championship

After the failed 16-team WAC experiment, BYU, Utah, Air Force, Colorado State, New Mexico, UNLV, San Diego State, and Wyoming branched off to form the Mountain West Conference.

BYU started the 1999 season strong with an 8-1 record. But then the wheels came off in Laramie in a loss to Wyoming as the Pokes brought many gadget plays that BYU had no answer for. Then Utah defeated BYU in Provo, forcing BYU to share the first MWC title with the Utes and Colorado State.

2011 – Independence

Record: 10-3 overall

The 2011 season marked a radical change in college football as numerous teams were in new conferences. But maybe the most radical move was BYU charting its own path with football independence.

BYU partnered with the WAC to fill the backend of the November schedules in the early year of Independence. The Cougars won games against Ole Miss, UCF, Oregon State, and Utah State as some of the highlights. Then they capped off the season with an Armed Forces Bowl victory over Tulsa.

2023 – Big 12 Conference

BYU will play in a major football conference for the first time in program history this fall in the Big 12. The Cougars were officially invited into the Big 12 on September 10, 2021, less than two months after Texas and Oklahoma expressed their intentions to move to the SEC.

BYU joins UCF, Cincinnati, and Houston in the league. The first Big 12 football schedule includes home games against Texas Tech and Oklahoma, plus road trips to TCU and Texas. BYU’s first Big 12 game will occur in Lawrence, Kansas, on September 23 against the Kansas Jayhawks.

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Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow Mitch’s coverage of BYU moving to the Big 12 Conference on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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How BYU Football Has Fared In First Year Of Conferences