BYU football: Is the Big 12 Bigger and Better than Independence?

Craig WilliamsContributor IIIAugust 17, 2011

BYU vs Oklahoma, 2009, Cowboys Stadium
BYU vs Oklahoma, 2009, Cowboys Stadium

BYU to the Big 12?  Not so fast.

After all, change rarely comes quickly to Provo.  When BYU finally broke away from the Mountain West Conference, exposure was the big word on campus.  “We’ve long sought broad, nationwide access to our games for our fans and increased visibility among those who may be less familiar with our university and athletic programs,” said president Cecil O. Samuelson.

If the Big 12 were to come calling, why not join? 

Playing in a conference with Texas and Oklahoma is clearly an exposure upgrade from playing in a conference with Wyoming and UNLV, old MWC foes. 

The Big 12 has tradition.  The Big 12 has access to the first class of college football, and even a possible national title game.  With rival school Utah packing up to swim with the big boys it makes sense that BYU would dive in head first for an upgraded ticket.  Right?


BYU going independent had little to do with reaching a BCS championship game (weird, I know).  Far from achieving Notre Dame status, an undefeated 2011 BYU season would just as likely be snubbed by the powers that be as an undefeated Mountain West season would have been.  (Could TCU have beat Auburn last year?  Wouldn't we all love to know?) 

Owned by the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, nationwide access and increased visibility drive BYU’s venture to go it alone. 

Becoming a part of an AQ conference is not going to be a draw unless it betters the position on frontiers of TV coverage and nationwide scheduling.

As it stands, Brigham Young is in an eight-year television deal with ESPN.  Part of that agreement is that any leftover games not covered by ESPN can be broadcast on the school’s own network, BYUtv.  Games are accessible to the 99.5 million homes ESPN catches and the 55 million homes reached by BYUtv. 

Ten of BYU’s 13 games this year will be on  an ESPN channel.  The October 15 contest against Oregon State is likely to be picked up, making 11 BYU games on the ESPN network in a single season.

As for scheduling? 

A look at BYU’s 2013 schedule demonstrates the school’s vision for the future.  Teams on the slate span the country from Hawaii to Georgia.  The 2013 schedule includes Boise State, Georgia Tech, Hawaii, Notre Dame, Texas and Utah. 

As an Independent, BYU is free to travel to Mississippi (this season’s opener), Washington DC (to play West Virginia, scheduled for 2016), Hawaii (a regular rival), Portland, Oregon or Portland, Maine.  In contrast, a Big 12 schedule would offer up an entire season in the Midwest, minimizing access and exposure.

BYU has poised itself for growth, nationwide scheduling and television coverage that are broader than what the Big 12 could offer. 

If an invitation is extended, athletic director Tom Holmoe may find that as far as BYU is concerned, well, everything is not bigger in Texas.