An increase of interest in potential Big 12 expansion means a lot of things, including multiple reports attaching the "difficult" moniker to BYU, as in "difficult to work with".
You've probably seen them everywhere, from blogs, to Twitter, to researched reports by respected national writers. I've heard this multiple times myself, not just from national writers, but from other administrators or those that work in the college football universe, certainly enough times for me to think it's not simply message board fodder.
But said reports generally are not accompanied by hard facts, or sourced material. Even off the record, I haven't gotten a lot of concrete details about why some think BYU isn't the easiest school to deal with. I have some educated guesses, but nothing hard and fast.
Thanks to Scott Pierce at the Salt Lake Tribune, however, we finally have something with a little meat. And it would seem to vindicate BYU a bit.
Pierce points the finger at San Diego State as being one of the originators of the story, something that's a matter of public record. When seeking admission to the Big 12 back in 2011, an athletic department employee emailed Oklahoma President David Boren, offering to expound on "all the disadvantages of being in the conference with BYU". The full cache of emails the Tulsa World asked for seem to have been lost to the Internet, but you can read the entirety of that specific email here.
Why would SDSU do that? Maybe pure spite was involved. After all, the sometimes sordid on-the-field athletic history between the two programs is long and occasionally really bitter. Maybe they were trying to put themselves in the best position possible by taking a cheap shot at a possible expansion rival. Maybe it had to do with TV. Maybe it's a collection of all three. But let's talk a little bit more about the TV angle first.
Pierce's entire article is worth a read, but the gist is that BYU was specifically promised by the MWC that they would be allowed to rebroadcast games, and to telecast games that weren't going to be shown by the league's corporate partners. BYU was reportedly promised this multiple times, but it was never put into writing. Whoops.
BYU was not shy about continuing to bring this up, or about making their dissatisfaction clear, much to the eventual chagrin of their league partners. Pierce reports this was the issue that ultimately led BYU to quit the MWC. From the article:
How does this make BYU difficult? Because BYU officials brought the issue up again and again at Mountain West meetings. They refused to let it drop.
And, rather than support a fellow league member who had been lied to and screwed over, representatives of the other MWC institutions — along with league staffers — apparently just got annoyed. Got tired of hearing about it.
Got sick of BYU being difficult.
This is not to suggest that TV was the only issue between BYU and the Mountain West. It was, however, the pivotal issue — the dispute that led BYU to quit the conference.
The sour grapes element from some old Mountain West programs is real, and should probably be remembered when other bloggers or reports suggest the Cougars should return to the MWC, should a Big 12 bid not prove successful. After all, there are teams that wouldn't vote to take them back now.
Can we trace all of the "BYU is hard to work with" claims back to angry Mountain West administrators? It's possible, but I doubt it. But if this is the genesis for concerns about BYU being difficult to work with, it sure seems like they have a pretty good reason. I would imagine that other factors, like Sunday play, institutional fit, etc, are probably part of the equation as well.
If nothing else though, if BYU decided they never want to play San Diego State again, well, that probably seems justified, doesn't it?