Conference expansion has been a topic since July when Oklahoma and Texas started their public exodus from the Big 12 to the SEC. The Big Ten, ACC and Pac 12 announced an alliance this week — although who knows how much that really means without a contract — leaving some to speculate what the Big 12 and its leftover eight members would do.
Barry Tramel of The Oklahoman published a story Thursday morning saying that “Industry sources have told me (Barry Tramel) BYU is the one no-brainer for Big 12 expansion.”
The story is behind a paywall and it’s probably not ethical for me to paste a bunch of screenshots, but I’ll give the highlights below. You can subscribe to The Oklahoman for $1 of six months access and read the article.
“Industry sources have told me BYU is the one no-brainer for Big 12 expansion,” Tramel wrote.
“The Cougars have a decades-long tradition of winning football, all-around athletic success and a worldwide following, courtesy of its status as the educational Mormon mecca.
BYU isn’t trying to build a big fan base. BYU has a big fan base.
The Cougars in 2019 (the last non-Covid season) drew an average of 59,457 fans to LaVell Edwards Stadium, which seats 63,470. In the two times zone west of Central, BYU ranked second in home attendance, trailing only Washington but ahead of Southern Cal and Oregon.”
Tramel went on to say that BYU would enhance the Big 12’s TV profile.
“Better yet, the Cougars’ television draw would be a welcome balm to a Big 12 sweating at the revenue dip coming without OU and Texas. BYU’s viewership numbers don’t get anywhere near the Sooners or the Longhorns, but any network would be intrigued by the Cougars.
According to researcher Zach Miller, BYU ranked 46th in the nation in football viewership per game over the five-year period of 2015-19. That’s with no conference, a rollercoaster schedule and often unenviable time slots, such as Friday nights.
Best yet, with the oncoming streaming wave, BYU would attract Mormons all over the globe to sign up for internet viewing.”
Tramel then went into the known downsides of BYU’s Sunday play and LQBTQ policies.
“BYU will not compete on Sundays. That’s an easy fix. Don’t schedule the Cougars on Sundays. Don’t schedule conference championships on Sundays. These are serious times. We can’t be worrying about the dates of the conference baseball tournament.
BYU’s honor code would be an issue. A variety of protests were staged in 2016 when the Big 12 considered expanding with Brigham Young. LGBT advocacy groups wrote letters to the Big 12 office and presidents, urging they not invite BYU.
BYU in 2020 changed its honor code, deleting a section on “homosexual behavior,” though the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has maintained its stance against same-sex marriages. That makes BYU not so much different from Baylor and the Baptists.
To the Cougars’ credit, they rarely have responded to claims of discrimination with their own claims of religious discrimination.”
Tramel later floated Boise State as another potential member, saying the Big 12 could broadcast games in all time windows with BYU and Boise State filling late-night content. These were just some of the highlights, so I’d recommend subscribing to read Tramel’s full piece.
The Big 12 presents some upside but also some real challenges. Playing Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, Baylor, TCU and others annually would be fun, in addition to Kansas and the other schools in one of the top basketball conferences. BYU has no real allies right now, so hitching its wagon with the rest of the Big 12 schools would in theory give BYU some friends as the college football landscape continues to evolve.
Money is a top driver in this and the Big 12’s future TV contract is up for debate. If BYU got $15M+ annually, in addition to the incremental money from “units” in the Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament, then that would surely be a welcome pay raise for BYU.
If BYU joins the Big 12 but it implodes shortly after, that wouldn’t help BYU much. BYU has a healthy log of games even beyond 2025 and would likely need to build schedules from scratch once again if they had to return to independence.
One other question is what will happen to the Big 12’s Power Five status. Can the Big 12 retain P5 autonomy, or will the P5 become the P4 and the Big 12 will be on the outside looking in?
My thought is that BYU will wait until we get more clarity on what the new College Football Playoff will look like. Before OU and Texas left to the Big 12, CFP expansion to 12 teams and 5 conference champion automatic qualifiers seemed imminent. If that were to happen, BYU joining the Big 12 would make a lot of sense.
Until we find out what CFP expansion looks like and what the rest of the Big 12 schools will do, then BYU may hang tight for a bit and let the dust settle some.