The college football conference realignment landscape hit another gear Monday morning as Texas and Oklahoma officially informed the Big 12 that they they will not renew grant of media rights and leave the Big 12. Both teams will have to pay the Big 12 gobs of money to leave before 2025, but odds are they pony up the money and join the SEC in 2022 or 2023.
People have floated the idea of the Big 10 poaching the top Pac 12 schools, which doesn’t seem so crazy if they want to keep pace with the SEC. The Big 12 also will need to figure out what to as the members decide if they want to stay together or try to join another conference, if anyone else will have them.
Where does this all leave BYU? Well, BYU will likely have to sit back and see what the top schools do. BYU will need to see where the chip falls after the SEC, Big 10, Pac 12 and ACC make their moves and then try to fit in as best they can. Independence may be the best path forward, or maybe BYU hitches it wagon to a Big 12 conference in the new era of imminent College Football playoff expansion. Big 12 schools make ~$35M from TV right annually, which is probably between $20-$25M more than what BYU makes. That number will drop significantly once Texas and OU leave, but maybe the Big 12 can salvage $18M-$20M annually for each school, which would be a bump for BYU.
Yahoo Sports columnist Pete Thamel, who has been one of the leading voices and insiders in conference expansion, suggested the Big 12 should “for sure” add BYU and expand the league. He made the suggestion on his podcast with colleague Dan Wetzel around the 27-minute mark.
“We (The Big 12) are gonna build the best of rest league,” Thamel suggested. “I would go get Boise State, Colorado State, BYU for sure, San Diego State, Houston... and then Cincinnati, UCF, and USF.”
Thamel suggested the Big 12 go to 16 teams, which could be fun but may not be the best if they want to maximize TV revenue per school — which, if we’re being honest, this is all about. BYU brings more eyeballs than anyone and would open up a western time zone for TV partners and give additional late-night TV slots which the current Big 12 schools cannot fill. BYU fans may not like more late-night games, but if it means more stability and a greater payout than BYU has to take what they get. At this point, two of BYU’s best selling points are the number of eyeballs they draw compared to other G5 schools and that they can provide late-night tv windows.
The Big 12 does not seem like a stable league, but it at least would give BYU an ally, which is something BYU doesn’t have at the moment. Sure BYU has ESPN, but at the end of the day they’d kick BYU to the curb if they needed to. If BYU joined the Big 12 lite with 1-7 other teams, they’d pick up some allies and have the protection of a conference and more voices in their corner as college football continues to inevitably evolve.