BYU to the Big 12 Is a Near-Perfect Combination

Donald FincherAnalyst IAugust 14, 2011

PROVO, UT - SEPTEMBER 1:  Large signs hang outside Lavell Edwards Stadium where it was announced that BYU football will become independent in 2011 separating from the Mountain West Conference, September 1, 2010 in Provo, Utah. The remaining BYU sports will become affiliated with the West Coast Conference in 2011. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
George Frey/Getty Images

BYU could be on the short list of invitees to the Big 12 should Texas A&M take the plunge and move to the SEC.  

There are some observers that see this as something that BYU shouldn't entertain.  They say the Big 12 is the Titanic.  

They say that the other teams have to relent too much to Texas.  They say their star power is diminished because Nebraska is gone and Texas A&M would be gone, too.  

But I submit that the Big 12 is a not only a great fit for BYU.  In fact, BYU is in the unique position to be the best fit of any school the league could realistically invite.

The reason I use the word "realistically" invite is because there have been rumblings that they would like to invite Arkansas and Notre Dame.  These rumors persist annually.  

But Notre Dame didn't give up its coveted independent status for what is considered a much better league in the Big Ten.  So why would they give it up for the Big 12?  

As for Arkansas, would any team in the SEC trade that for the Big 12?  The only reason this rumor persists is because Arkansas wasn't always a member of the SEC and therefore seems more within reach than LSU, which is a founding member.

The realistic invitees seem to be BYU, Houston, TCU, and Louisville.  Houston and TCU don't bring any new eyeballs to the conference that aren't already paying attention to Texas.  And Louisville just doesn't seem to make any sense.  

So via simple process of elimination, BYU makes the most sense for the Big 12.  Also, given their growth trajectories, Salt Lake City will be as big as Denver in another 20 years, which means that adding Salt Lake City, already a valuable market in its own right, will come pretty darn close to replacing the TV market lost when Colorado bolted.

But here's why it makes sense for BYU to make this jump.

Texas has its own network and isn't going to give it up.  It has signed a 20-year deal with the worldwide leader.  Thus, there would be no issues with BYU keeping its deal and retaining its own network.  The Big 12 would be the only AQ conference where this would not be an issue.

Being an AQ conference and the one that Texas is in, means that AQ status is instantly achieved and there's not a chance that the conference would lose it.  Going independent didn't get BYU any closer to a BCS game than it was in the MWC.

In fact, a powerful argument can be made that going independent actually hurt BYU's chances to ever see a BCS bowl.  This would remedy that.

Scheduling as an independent is difficult.  Being in the Big 12 would allow built-in conference games to fill the schedule.  And while there are some blockbuster matchups with Oklahoma and Texas, there are some reliable wins in there, too, with Iowa State, Kansas State, Kansas and Baylor.

The Big 12 would be pretty desperate to get another school.  They would have no problem issuing an invitation in all sports.  Thus, the non-football sports could be reunited with football in a single conference.

Finally, the Big 12 is not a sinking ship with BYU in it.  BYU is too far away to ever be snagged away by the SEC or the Big Ten and thus certainly by the ACC or Big East.  And the Pac 12 is never going to consider them because of the religious angle.  

The only reason the conference is shaky right now is because of the four schools that wanted to sever ties with Texas (Nebraska, Colorado, Missouri, and Texas A&M), two of them are still there. Their lack of commitment is causing the instability.  

With A&M gone, that would remove one of the final two instigators.  Missouri would be the last worry.  And if BYU came aboard, losing Missouri would not kill the conference.

Think about it.  Texas needs a conference.  Even though they have the Longhorn network, they didn't have to give up the comfort and safety of a conference to get it.  Thus, they have the best of both worlds and don't want to lose it.  

Additionally, they would have a tough time finding a home for non-football sports and have acknowledged that.  

Given that Texas wants to be in a conference, Oklahoma remains committed to staying with them, since they need to play Texas in order to keep recruiting it as well as they do.  

With Texas and Oklahoma committed, that makes Texas Tech and Baylor, as well as Oklahoma State also committed as their in-state flagship schools are staying in place.  

Finally, while Kansas, and to a lesser degree Kansas State and Iowa State, might get a Big East or Mountain West offer, those offers are not as desirable as the Big 12 staying together given these schools' location and the existing relationships in place.  So they are committed, too.  They kind of have to be.

So, again, outside of Missouri leaving, the threat of a sinking ship is really no more than a cliche' throwaway phrase that is blown out of proportion for the sake of sensational copy in an article.

Finally, BYU is protected even in the event that something were to happen.  BYU would still have their network deal with ESPN and still have a built-in audience of LDS members worldwide who would follow them no matter what.  

While other candidate schools would be burning bridges that might not be easily repaired in order to experiment with an AQ status league, BYU could simply go right back to where it is today if it didn't work out.  And nobody would fault them for trying given that the league sought them rather than the other way around.  

In other words, if BYU were to do the courting and it failed, BYU takes a PR hit.  But if they simply respond to an offer with a willingness to try to make it work, they couldn't be faulted if it didn't.