In the quest for admission to the Big 12, multiple public figures have gotten involved, especially on the Texas side. The Governor and Lt. Governor both publicly endorsed Houston’s candidacy, which caused Utah’s Governor to stump for BYU (also, thanks for reading SB Nation, Gov. Herbert. We appreciate it).
But that was back in late July, and the process continues to drag on. Now, we have a little more insight into how some of Utah’s leaders are pitching and supporting BYU’s hopes to join the conference.
We have obtained an email from Steve Starks, president of the Utah Jazz and Larry H. Miller Sports and Entertainment, to Utah Lt. Governor Spencer Cox, concerning BYU’s Big 12 talking points.
The email, dated August 8, reads as follow:
Thank you for your help on this and please tell the governor we are grateful for his help. His willingness to call the governors of Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas really helps the effort to get BYU into the Big 12. To be clear, BYU has been asked not to lobby the universities themselves, so any efforts we collectively make are done as individual fans, citizens of Utah, and those wanting to help.
Here are the key messages and talking points that we believe are important:
- BYU has a world-class brand with 40,000 students, a national alumni and fan base, and a strong reputation.
- BYU has a rich legacy of academic and athletic leadership.
- Most media experts are citing BYU as a “no-brainer” candidate for the Big 12.
- BYU will be a great partner on and off the field and will work closely with the other schools.
- BYU has established relationships with ESPN and national bowl game.s
Of course the governor can lastly, (sic) it would be great if the governor could ask what the other governors are hearing and what suggestions they have.
Thank you again and please let him know I am glad to discuss further if helpful.
Later that day, the email thread shows Lt. Gov Cox forwarded this email to Gov. Herbert, with the following note:
Here are the talking points from Steve Starks re: Big 12 expansion. Any intel you can gather would be helpful. Thank you!
We called the governor’s office for clarification, and a spokesman told us that Gov. Herbet did speak to Texas governor Greg Abbott concerning BYU and the Big 12. However, neither he nor Lt. Gov Cox have formally spoken to elected officials in Oklahoma, Kansas or Iowa.
It isn’t a shock that Mr. Starks is supporting BYU’s Big 12 hopes. He even tweeted about it, back in late July:
#Big12, don't overcomplicate this, invite BYU then determine who the other 1-3 schools should be. @BYUCougars will make you very proud.— Steve Starks (@StevenStarks) July 22, 2016
For what it’s worth, according to his LinkedIn profile, Starks earned his BA at Weber State.
This is, however, interesting in that it confirms BYU was asked not to lobby institutions directly (something that didn’t stop other schools, like Cincinnati, Houston, Colorado State and UCF), and it also provides clarity on a possible BYU-specific pitch.
Given that the bulk of Big 12 schools are public institutions, reaching out to other governors also makes sense, as a possible strategy.
If the most recent reports are accurate, it doesn’t appear this charm campaign has been successful, as stories in the Dallas Morning News, Sports Illustrated and other outlets have inferred BYU’s internal policies make their selection a long shot.
But you never know what’s happening beyond the public eye.