While the loss of Nebraska in football has without question been devastating to the Big 12, what have Nebraska and Colorado done for the league in basketball? While Colorado did well enough this past year, they along with Nebraska have been the step-children of that league.
This despite the Cornhuskers and the Buffaloes having been the northern division standard bearers in market size (Denver and the Front Range) and huge national alumni bases (why Nebraska was invited to the Big Ten) when it comes to basketball.
Would BYU be a better addition to the Big 12 that would more than make up for this loss? Absolutely! But football rules the roost of league alignment politics more than at any other time, and with the turmoil that is the present Big 12 alignment finding replacement institutions for the departed has not been to the best interests of the remaining members.
Despite the best efforts during the summer of 2010 with all of the league realignments, BYU did not come out in a favorable position with respects to where its basketball program will be aligned. The West Coast Conference (WCC) is hardly a fit despite being made up of small liberal arts, faith-based institutions.
If anything, the mood at Denver’s Pepsi Center last Saturday evening (3/19) illustrated this with the broad fan support of BYU (not to mention their beating of future league affiliate Gonzaga).
Wouldn’t Kansas, Texas or Missouri be better opponents, not to mention better academic and alumni based matches for BYU? Wouldn’t BYU do better to complement Big 12 member Baylor University as a 2nd faith-based institution in that league? Still further, wouldn’t the 22,000-plus seat Marriott Center filled to capacity say something to Texas?
The BYU basketball program, while lacking an NCAA title, still has a highly storied history having won two NIT titles (1951 and 1966) under legendary coach Stan Watts, and it should be noted until UCLA and the late John Wooden’s long run of titles from the mid '60s to the mid '70s, the NIT was more closely on equal footing with the NCAA tourney.
The Big 12 has had an interest in BYU since its origins in 1993 when then-BYU President Rex E. Lee was invited by the Big 8 presidents, along with Texas and Texas A&M, so the interests of Big 12 rebuilding aren’t strictly limited to poaching Arkansas from the SEC or possibly adding C-USA schools like Houston, Memphis or SMU.
The notion that BYU will never join a power conference like the Big 12 due to the “No Sunday Play” rule governing them is the biggest myth amongst the fans of college sports today.
The 2011-2012 academic year will be interesting for the Big 12 with the complete round-robin scheduling alignments where all 10 schools will play each other home and home in basketball.
Perhaps what the Big Ten has done with Penn State for the past 18 years might be in part a blueprint for what the Big 12 could do with BYU should the squabbling and jealousy from independent football TV deals settle over the next year and a newer more comprehensive deal can be reached with ESPN with FOX throwing more $$$ at the Pac-12.