The Definitive (cough) Word on BYU and Big XII Expansion

The rumor mill is running wild today with inside sources boldly predicting a BYU invite to the Big XII “sometime this weekend.”

Not sure about whether that will actually happen, but BYU does represent the absolute best option for ANY Big XII expansion. Period. We’ll dazzle you with some statistics and quotes from inside sources in a second that support our opinion, but if you get nothing else out of this post, then we’ve at least made our point.

First, a disclaimer: ALL of Planet BYU’s marvelous information comes from strong, inside sources. That’s because generally, when we chat with our friends we are inside. And most of us have gym memberships so we’re all reasonably fit.

That’s important because as you chase the conference re-alignment rumor mill, it is important to know which obscure blogs and tweets to trust. The answer is of course, NONE, with the possible exception of Planet BYU’s strong inside sources that are more than happy to provide comments on virtually any topic.

How to Fix the Big XII: Expand, Expand, Expand.

Step #1: Add BYU.

Whether Missouri sticks around or not, the Big 12’s first order of business should be to add BYU. Actually, one rumor out today says adding BYU might encourage Missouri to stay.

Hookem.com says, “BYU is expected to become the 10th school in the Big 12. And that could happen as soon as Saturday.
“I’d say it’s 75-80% sure it’s going to happen this weekend,” one source said of BYU’s addition to the Big 12. If and when BYU joins the Big 12, the same source also expects Missouri to stay in the Big 12, though that is not certain.
The feeling is that the addition of BYU and an 11th and 12th school geographically palatable to the Tigers will help influence the Tigers. The two additions also have a excellent basketball heritage which means something to the Tigers as well.

Whether Missouri stays immaterial though because the Big 12 desperately needs some new blood.  BYU has great facilities, a winning tradition, and delivers a sizable fan base. In fact, this article from the New York Times attempts to quantify BYU’s influence.

Brigham Young, ranking 43rd in the country with about 700,000 fans, would be appealing enough from an economic standpoint. But schools like S.M.U., Houston and Rice have very small fan bases — under 200,000 each — in the extremely competitive market for Texas football. One wonders if there isn’t some second-guessing about T.C.U. — scheduled to join the Big East next year — which also has to battle against other Texas teams but does a little better with about 400,000 fans. If the Big 12 were to collapse, Iowa State, Kansas State and Baylor might have trouble latching on elsewhere: their fan bases each rank outside the top 50 nationally….Brigham Young, as we mentioned, would be an attractive-enough addition for a conference like the Big 12. With about 700,000 fans, it ranks behind 42 automatic-qualifier schools — but ahead of 27 of them.

As an interesting side note, the study shows Utah has 351,939 fans compared to Boise State’s 483,489. Also, if you scroll around the map it proves what Cougar fans have always known: BYU has fans in virtually every part of the country.

Another big bonus for BYU is, as an independent, the Cougars could sign up and begin play as early as next year.

As it stands, it seems the only thing keeping BYU out of the league right now is conference instability. And if the Big 12 schools agree to give their media rights to the conference, that should be solved as well. In that sense, it really doesn’t matter if Missouri stays or not. Either way, the league needs BYU.

Step #2: Add Additional Teams.

Adding BYU is a no-brainer. But beyond that there is a ton of speculation about what should be done. Should the Big 12 go to 12 or 14? Should they dismantle the weakened Big East, snag non-AQ teams, or do a mixture of both?

Scenario #1: Add TCU and Air Force to get to 12.

This idea was floated by Oklahoma last week but seems to be losing steam. Texas’ opposition to TCU is well documented, though that stance may be softening somewhat. But at the end of the day, Texas left TCU in the dust when the old Southwest Conference broke up and that still plays a role.

But if the Big XII wants to add a solid football member and maintain some regional affinity, TCU is a good choice and appears to be gaining traction.

Fort Worth Star-Telegram writer Jimmy Burch said as much.

“Because TCU could end its commitment to the Big East with no legal ramifications, that makes TCU and Brigham Young, an independent in football, attractive potential plug-in candidates for a 2012 Big 12 football schedule that will be without A&M and also could be minus Missouri.”

Air Force is one of those solid programs that never grabs any headlines but should be a viable option. Adding a service academy could open up some additional revenue streams and help create a contiguous league while adding a Big 12 presence back into “Pac-12” territory.

Scenario #2: Go Big and Put the Big East Out of Its Misery.

An idea that is gaining traction this week is for the Big 12 to do a massive land grab and invite TCU, Cincinnati, West Virginia and Louisville. That’d give the Big XII 14 members (current membership plus BYU) and ensure its survival. Here’s a thought from one of the many sources reporting this possibility (the Fort Star-Telegram) as well as some thoughts on a Big East merger from an Oklahoman sports writer.

It is no secret that plucking multiple teams from the 2012 Big East football inventory — notably TCU, Louisville, Cincinnati and West Virginia — would cripple the Big East in efforts to enhance its existing TV contract that expires after the 2013 season. The move also would add value to a potential Big 12 deal when league officials seek to rework their ABC/ESPN contract that expires after the 2015-16 school year.

Scenario #3: Boise State.

If the Big 12 is serious about adding competitive options, the Broncos are a good fit and should be near the top. Boise would make a great travel partner for BYU. Unfortunately, despite the legendary “smurf turf”, Boise has a very small stadium, weak academic tradition and has done virtually nothing in any sport besides football. That might not matter since Boise is very marketable as a football commodity right now, but it is hard to predict how viable adding the Broncos is.

How We Got Here: A History Lesson.

Last summer, the MWC got the conference realignment game rolling by poaching Boise State from the WAC. It was a move predicted for years and, at the time, made the MWC look like a cinch to lock up BCS status. In 2011 the MWC would boast Boise State, BYU, TCU, Utah and a bevy of decent teams, also-rans, and down-right horrendous programs.

Nebraska Causes Big XII Chaos

It’s fair to say chaos had been simmering just below the surface in the Big XII for years; ever since Texas and company joined up and the conference agreed to unequal revenue sharing. Giving the biggest teams a larger slice of the pie was all well and good for the top four schools—Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, and Nebraska—until one team (looking at you, Texas), started pulling away from the other three.

Suddenly, the other issues the conference faced (which seem to boil down to a lot of egos trying to get along in the same space) became untenable. Finally, Nebraska announced it was leaving and bolted for the Big Ten.

With the “super conference” era imminent, Texas, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Colorado all looked into joining the Pac-10 while Missouri began begging for an invitation to follow Nebraska into the Big Ten.

Meanwhile, the forgotten 4 (Kansas, Kansas State, Baylor, Iowa State) reached full panic mode. What could be worse than being in a BCS league and having the MWC commissioner invite you to join.

As an interesting side note, during this time rumors stated TCU was actively campaigning against adding Baylor. Now it appears Baylor may be trying to prevent TCU’s inclusion in the Big 12. What is it with Texas schools not getting along? All the big schools in Utah never have any problems… J

Then a strange thing happened. Texas A&M had second thoughts and cast longing looks towards the SEC, Colorado jumped the gun and joined the Pac-10 a little prematurely, and the rest of the Big XII South decided to stay in the Big XII.

Utah’s Pleading Gets Answered

Now the Pac-10 had a problem. It had 11 teams, no championship game, and no hope (for the moment) of adding any more Big XII schools. So the Pac-10 did what any league filled with hostility and bias against BYU would do: it invited Utah. To be fair, the Utes were begging to join.

In fact, so desperate were the Utes to join the “big boys” that, when the Pac-10 said they were going to wait at 11 for a year, Utah offered to join without taking any TV revenue. Essentially, Utah was so desperate to join that it didn’t make a single request. “No TV revenue for the first year? 50% in year two and we won’t be treated as equals for 4 years? Where do we sign?!”

My only regret here is that Utah didn’t insist on playing its biggest rival in the last game of the season. It would have been so easy too. Utah vs. BYU and Colorado vs. Colorado State on rivalry weekend.

BYU Declares Independence and Joins the WCC

In a shocking turn of events, suddenly BYU, with a larger fan base, stronger football tradition, better resources and facilities, and stronger overall athletic tradition, not to mention solid academics (which we all know doesn’t matter in realignment anyway) was stuck in the MWC.

So BYU did what any self-respecting school in its situation would do. It went independent. Inept Craig Thompson, true to form, threw out a hail Mary in a desperate attempt to force BYU to stay in the league by inviting Fresno State and Nevada to join.

Despite agreeing to a solidarity agreement less than 72-hours earlier, Fresno State and Nevada showed their untrustworthiness and bolted. In the process destroying carefully laid plans for BYU to rejoin the WAC in all Olympic sports.

Amazingly, the WCC stepped in at the last second and made BYU’s independence possible. MWC teams like Wyoming fumed, promising never to play the Cougars again (I wonder how they feel about BYU’s new deal to play Boise State in football for the next 12 years?), but an 8-year deal with ESPN and a 6-game contract with Notre Dame made the move to independence look like it would actually work.

The Big XII Makes a Horrible, Horrible Mistake

The worst mistake the Big XII made was not immediately expanding after losing two of its schools. It saw $$ signs where it should have seen warning signs. Money does not buy stability. In fact, for the Big XII it appears money imbalance helped precipitate the conference breakup.

The Big XII should have immediately added BYU and TCU to get back to 12. Instead, it dropped the title game, abandoned divisions, and pocketed a few extra dollars.

Texas A&M Acts on its SEC Flirtations

After Texas A&M began looking at the SEC, it never really lost interest in that league. Despite making more money than ever, TAMU still wasn’t happy. When Texas landed a huge deal from ESPN for its fledgling Longhorn Network, TAMU finally had the excuse it needed to act on desires that had been simmering for more than a year.

After months of rumors, denials, speculation and legal wrangling, here we are, with TAMU set to join the SEC and the Big XII (still) in utter chaos.

The ACC Pulls a Fast One

Capping the conference chaos, in the middle of the TAMU-SEC-Big 12 rumors, the ACC actually went out and did something. In one swift weekend, the ACC poached Syracuse and Pittsburgh from the Big East. The ACC insulated itself from encroachment should the SEC expand to 14 or 16, and at the same time decimated the Big East.

Blame it All on the BCS

What’s next is anyone’s guess but one thing is perfectly clear: If the NCAA had had the guts to institute a playoff years ago, likely none of this would have ever happened. We would probably be enjoying regional conferences that made sense with strong rivalries established over decades of on-the-field competition.

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