Stop me if you’ve heard this story before: After months — okay, years — of speculation, the Big 12 may finally put an end to their “will they or won’t they” expansion talk and make a decision.
Or maybe not.
What we know for sure is that the Big 12 board of directors will meet in Dallas today, and that the conference has scheduled a press conference for 6:30 p.m. ET / 4:30 p.m. MT. The conference is expected to announce something regarding their expansion plans at that point.
What will they decide? There have been multiple recent reports indicating that the most likely outcome would be the conference not expanding. But if we’ve learned anything about the Big 12 in recent months, it’s that just about anything is still on the table. SB Nation’s Steven Godfrey reports that four scenarios are still on the table right now, running the gamut from expanding, to punting on making a decision, and more.
As of right now, there’s not a ton that we hard-and-fast know about where this process is, where BYU stands, and more. But based on some recent reporting from other outlets, along with some from ourselves, here’s what I’ve pieced together so far:
- Earlier this summer, basically every single Big 12 candidate program was reaching out to other Big 12 institutions, sending informational material and making their pitches. We’ve published a slew of those documents across SB Nation, thanks to multiple FOIA requests. But BYU’s name never came up during those emails. In fact, through all of our document requests, the only BYU correspondence we could find was an email from BYU AD Tom Holmoe to Oklahoma AD Joe Castiglione, regarding their mutual work on the NCAA Tournament selection committee; nothing to do with expansion.
- But that doesn’t mean that BYU, and outside parties working on BYU’s behalf, weren’t hard at work. The Big 12 asked candidate institutions not to directly lobby conference members, but that doesn’t mean third parties could not do so. In August, it was reported that Mitt Romney was making phone calls on behalf of BYU’s Big 12 hopes. We also previously reported that Utah Gov. Gary Herbert had called Texas Gov. Greg Abbott regarding BYU, and that Utah Jazz president Steve Starks was involved in the process as well.
- Those weren’t the only folks working. Vanquish The Foe can confirm that other Utah business leaders (such as Josh James, CEO of Domo), as well as famous BYU alumni and former athletes, like Steve Young, were involved in efforts to further BYU’s Big 12 candidacy. The effectiveness of such plans, of course, remain to be seen. But BYU’s leadership was not passive during this process.
- Jay Drew of the Salt Lake Tribune reported on Saturday that “The Tribune has learned that while BYU athletics officials want full Big 12 membership, there are some leaders of the LDS Church — the faith that owns and operates BYU — who favor the school keeping its non-football sports in the West Coast Conference because every school in that league is faith-based, like BYU.”
- I’ve been told this as well, and that the “leaders in the LDS Church” in question are members of the Quorum of the Twelve. I am surprised that BYU’s athletic department would be able to move forward with this plan with high-ranking members of church leadership still holding reservations. I’m not sure if this means BYU wouldn’t be able to accept an all-sports membership opportunity if one was offered, or what — only that these feelings exist.
But what about BYUtv?
Drew reports that BYU has informed the Big 12 that BYUtv would be available to broadcast network programming, as well as offer up the use of their HD truck. We spoke with a network official back in March, who made it clear that BYUtv is not the Longhorn Network, and would not be a threat. University officials believe their digital expertise from BYUtv would be an asset for their potential Big 12 hopes, rather than a liability.
There’s been some chatter on Twitter that BYUtv officials were tipped off in some way about the results of the Big 12 meeting, since the network will be broadcasting the presser today. I find that exceptionally unlikely.
BYUtv is showing the press conference because a lot of BYU fans are interested in the press conference. I’d be very surprised if they figured out what was happening early, since Big 12 administrators themselves may not even know at this point. If they actually did know for a certainty, I imagine the network would be a bit more enthusiastic in promoting the stream (i.e. fans, you don’t want to miss this!).
So, what do you think is going to happen?
I’m not going to sit here and tell you that #sources have told me what’s going to go down with a certainty. I legitimately don’t know. I suspect that the conference is not expanding, thanks to pressure from TV partners and an inability for the schools to decide on two schools. After all, the President of Fox Sports made it pretty clear he’s not in favor of Big 12 expansion today.
But, as everybody on Twitter has made clear, national media outlets were wrong about the Big 12’s thinking the last time the board of directors got together, when they decided to investigate expansion after Big 12 media days. Anything can happen.
I will say this: I have a sneaking suspicion that rumors of the demise of BYU’s candidacy solely due to Honor Code issues may have been a little exaggerated. No inside scoop here. Just a hunch.
We’ll have more on what happened, and what it means, later today.