By now, you've probably already read the report about conference championship game deregulation. In case you missed it, CBS reported that legislation that will allow the deregulation of conference championship games is expected to be passed by 2016, which would hypothetically allow the Big 12 to host a conference championship game by 2016 without having to expand to 12 members. This legislation was also supported by the ACC, which would like more flexibility in deciding how they determine who gets to their championship game.
Many BYU fans assumed that other conferences, like the Big 10 or the SEC, would oppose such a measure, with the idea that it might give the Big 12 some sort of advantage. But if you look at the history, it's clear that the 12 team rule is a bit arbitrary, and springs more out of a historical accident than any sort of well-researched competitive balance policy. Perhaps others now agreed, or figured out that deregulation could be used to help them as well.
Should this actually get passed, does it mean that the Big 12 will 100%, absolutely get a conference championship game in 2016? Not necessarily. The financial benefit would be weighed against logistics of the event, and whether it would actually help the conference get a team in the College Football Playoff. And lets not forget, the Big 12 got burned multiple times by having a conference title game during the BCS era. But this move would give the conference increased flexibility, and most importantly, remove perhaps their last remaining impetus for conference expansion in the near future.
Which brings us then, of course, to BYU.
The conventional wisdom was that if the Big 12 was unable to host a championship game due to NCAA bylaws, and if they determined that a lack of a championship game was preventing the conference from making the playoffs, then, revenue be damned, it would be forced to expand with BYU being one of the schools near the top of the proverbial list.
This conventional wisdom wasn't completely off base, but it was based on some pretty unlikely scenarios (and let's not forget how close TCU or Baylor was to making the playoffs, championship be damned). With the conference championship leverage now greatly diminished, that leaves a potential BYU expansion to be considered on their own merits.
What does that mean? Don't get your hopes up for anything in the short term.
From researching our BYU scheduling article, our sources indicated that while the Big 12 would consider BYU in the event that they actually expanded, their geography, cultural factors, Sunday play, alcohol sales and other factors would all be considered in the equation, which would complicate things. The Big 12 would also like to find at least one travel partner for Cincinnati, taking a potential slot off the board.
Our sources indicated that The American would still be happy to take BYU, but there isn't another obvious choice on the table. Leaving independence for the Mountain West or The American would provide potential New Year Six access, but almost certainly at the expense of financials, and also interesting schedules. As BYU has lined up bigger and bigger games at the back half of this decade, including P5 teams to Provo, changing the status quo seems less attractive. We have not heard from anything indicating BYU was seriously considering this.
The bad news is that barring some other aspect significantly changing, it doesn't look like BYU has a path to a Power Five, and thus Playoff access, in the near future. Of course, given BYU's football performance recently, playoff access is an academic question.
Things change when the next TV deal gets negotiated, but for now, it seems that we can put conference realignment chatter to bed.