In the latest (and hopefully the final) chapter of "As the Mountain West Turns", BYU announced that they will be leaving the conference to pursue football independence, and competing in the West Coast Conference in other sports.
This has a few major ramifications. It creates a new power conference in men's hoops, with Gonzaga, St. Mary's and BYU in the WCC. It eliminates any chance the MWC may have had of achieving automatic qualifier status.
Most importantly to Cougar fans, it makes athletics director Mack Rhoades' job a lot easier.
It was widely believed that if BYU had decided to stay, the MWC would have invited Houston to come on as the 12th member. This would have been a tough decision for Rhoades, as joining the conference would have only benefited UH if the MWC's appeal for AQ status was granted. If BYU had stayed, Houston had accepted the invitation, and the NCAA had denied the appeal (an entirely plausible scenario), UH would have been screwed. At that point, you've joined a more competitive football conference, but haven't significantly increased the prestige of your program overall, and you've locked yourself into some skyrocketing travel costs - TCU is the only MWC program located anywhere near Houston.
So now, the path before Rhoades and Houston is clear: remain in Conference USA, continue improving facilities, and work on increasing fan support, in order to position UH for the next round of realignment. I mean, come on, look at the Big XII. That thing is being held together by hopes and crossed fingers. The Big XII is coming crashing down sooner than later, and that will cause some ripples.
A more immediate question, as posed by Joe Schad, is whether or not Houston would consider scheduling a BYU program that is going to be desperately searching for football opponents in the near future. To which I say, why not? It would be a quality opponent to add to a list of future non-conference slates that is less-than-staggering (Louisiana Tech and UTSA make prominent appearances) at present. A BYU-Houston game would get some national attention as a premier match-up of non-BCS powers. So how about it, who else could go for some Cougar-on-Cougar action*?
*This is not an intentional double-entendre. As far as you know.