College Football Realignment: What Does Big Ten Expansion Mean for BYU?
With the Big Ten's recent acquisitions of Maryland and Rutgers, it looks like conference realignment is in full swing once again.
And once again, BYU finds itself right in the middle of the rumors flying around.
The Cougars are finishing just their second season as an independent, but the rumor mill keeps on turning about what BYU will or will not do in response to this stunning move by the Big Ten. So, let's take a look at some of the more popular rumors flying around today:
Return to the MWC? Please.
Almost right after the news on Maryland and Rutgers broke, Brett McMurphy of ESPN claimed that BYU, along with Boise State and SDSU, were considering returning/staying in the MWC.
I have only three words to say about this rumor:
Ain't. Gonna. Happen.
At least, not from the BYU side of things.
I can understand Boise State and SDSU having cold feet. The new playoff bowl agreements seem to say that the Aztecs and Broncos have just as good access to a big-time bowl or the playoff in the MWC as they do in the Big East. However, all indications seem to point to them still making their planned move to the Big East.
After how poorly Craig Thompson has run the MWC, I don't blame them.
But while Boise State and SDSU have some reason to stay, the MWC burned the bridge with BYU a long time ago after they torpedoed the WAC. BYU may not have a major bowl tie-in yet on its own, but who knows? After all, BYU does have a contract with ESPN, who by the way holds most of the bowl broadcasting contracts.
Oh, and thanks to said contract with ESPN, there's no way that the MWC can offer the Cougars more money than what they already get.
So, BYU has exactly zero incentive to return to the MWC. I think that McMurphy's sources are simply wishful thinkers within the MWC.
Does the Big East Come After BYU Again?
Personally, I wouldn't be surprised if the Big East gave BYU another call right after they got wind that Rutgers was leaving.
The Big East is in desperate need for some football stability. Rumor has it that teams like UConn and Louisville are looking closely at jumping ship for the ACC. Besides, newcomers Boise State and SDSU would like to have more travel partners out West.
BYU is clearly the most attractive school available help stabilize the conference.
But once again, the Cougars have little incentive to jump aboard. BYU is going to make more money as an independent, and as I noted above, I don't think that BYU is going to be left totally behind in the bowl situation with a partner like ESPN.
My personal opinion is that if BYU really wanted to be part of the Big East, it would have made that move already. The conference just can't offer BYU much more than what it's got right now as an independent.
Does the Pac-12 Finally Swallow its Pride?
My gut says not yet.
From pure football and financial reasons, BYU should be a no-brainer for the Pac-12. It would bring another great rivalry game into the conference and BYU's not insignificant national following.
But the Pac-12 isn't going to pick up the Cougars unless it absolutely has to. In fact, if conferences weren't moving toward 16-team superconferences, I'd say that there wasn't any chance at all.
However, the Pac-12 has to be worried about the Big Ten moving in that direction.
The simple truth is that there aren't too many teams anywhere near the Pac-12 that would bring more value than BYU. Another inconvenient truth for those who push for pure "academic excellence" (meaning big-time research $) is that there isn't a school with a major research program available in the area either.
This isn't to say that BYU is some po-dunk community college. In fact, BYU is ranked No. 68 nationally according to US News and World Report. That's better than current Pac-12 members Colorado (No. 97), Oregon (No. 115), Arizona (No. 120), Utah (T-No. 125), Washington State (T-No. 125), Oregon State (T-No. 139) and Arizona State (T-No. 139).
Honestly, I don't know how the Pac-12 gets to 16 or even 14 teams without adding BYU or schools with a similar academic profile. It tried raiding the Big 12 of teams like Texas and Oklahoma, but now the Longhorns and Sooners are plenty happy where they are at.
Still, I'm going to stand by what I've said before: The Pac-12 isn't going to give the Cougars an invite unless there's no other choice.
We just haven't reached that point yet.
Are We Going to Get Another Round of BYU to the Big 12 Talks?
Well, here we go again.
I would not be surprised to see BYU to the Big 12 rumors fire up again. However, BYU fans have been on this roller coaster before.
Rumors went out that BYU was going to get picked up by the Big 12 when Colorado and Nebraska left. Didn't happen.
The rumors came back when Texas A&M decided to leave for the SEC. The Big 12 took TCU instead.
They came up yet again when Missouri followed A&M to the SEC. West Virginia got the nod over BYU.
Understandably, BYU fans are tired of being jerked around.
While the Big 12 (and most of all Texas) has decreed that it's happy with 10 teams, I have no doubt it'll have to get back to at least 12 as other power conferences continue to expand. However, many teams within the conference, namely newcomer West Virginia, will undoubtedly want the conference to look east and not west.
BYU will bring more money than most other rumored expansion targets like Louisville and Cincinnati. For a while, Clemson and Florida State at least flirted with the idea of joining the Big 12, and they still may end up doing it.
After seeing Maryland and Rutgers join the Big Ten, I'm convinced that anything can happen.
Doesn't mean that it would be likely.
At any rate, I don't think BYU can absolutely count on the Big 12 coming to call. After all, if the Big 12 really wanted BYU, it would have invited them already.
That isn't to say that the Big 12 won't want BYU at some point in this shifting college football landscape, but I wouldn't stand waiting by the phone either.
So, Should BYU Just Count on Staying Independent?
A lot of fans and pundits are pushing BYU to join a conference, even the MWC, to prevent it from getting left behind in this brave new world with new bowl tie-ins and a new playoff.
But let me point this out: We still don't know what BYU's bowl situation is going to be after 2013.
For all we know, BYU could get a contract similar to what Notre Dame has with the Orange Bowl.
So until we find out what BYU's bowl tie-ins are going to be in 2014 and beyond, there's no reason to join a conference for the sake of improving its bowl situation.
Where Will BYU End Up?
Some people also point to the program's recent struggles as a reason for the Cougars to give up independence, even if it means going back to the MWC.
As my favorite crazy ESPN GameDay coach would say: Not so fast.
Joining a conference is not going to be a magical solution for what ails BYU, even if it is a power conference like the Big 12.
Just ask Utah how well its move to the Pac-12 has gone so far.
At any rate, BYU will most likely remain right where it is for the time being as an independent. Until we find out what BYU's standing will be in the post-BCS world, I don't think there's any reason for BYU to join a conference right now unless it was a true power conference like the Pac-12 or Big 12.
And as neither of those conferences appear to be knocking at this moment, BYU fans should expect to remain independent for the foreseeable future.
Then again, after the Big Ten's big move, what is foreseeable in college football anymore?
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