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Will BYU be part of conference shakeups?

With Texas and Oklahoma leaving the Big 12, will the fallout open a door for BYU?

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BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe and football coach Kalani Sitake answer questions during BYU football media day in Provo.

BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe and head football coach Kalani Sitake answer questions during BYU football media day in Provo on Thursday, June 17, 2021. With Texas and Oklahoma set to bolt the Big 12 for the SEC, speculation is mounting that BYU may land in a Power Five conference.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

What’s in store for BYU in conference realignment?

Conference realignment talk has come at least a year or two earlier than expected with Texas and Oklahoma telling the Big 12 they will seek to sell their media rights and reportedly head to the Southeastern Conference.

BYU is mentioned often as a prime candidate for Big 12 realignment if that league votes to expand and add inventory for future TV contract talks. Will that happen? It could, but there are a lot of discussions and debates yet to be made in order to see a more clear picture.  The timeline could span months, or it could take more than a year for studies and negotiations to take place.

To prepare for this, BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe, in the twilight of his career, is prepared to answer common sense questions, as is the administration. The university has emphasized leadership and direction in addressing many of the concerns by Big 12 administrators when the previous round of expansion talks took place. Much of that had to do with race relations and more sensitivity to LGBTQ concerns. What BYU will not do is start playing games on Sunday or do away with the foundational guidelines of the honor code to be admitted to a conference.

Cougar Insider predictions

Question of the week: It is kind of early in the Big 12 versus SEC shakeup, but predict where BYU might fit into the equation.

Jay Drew: In my opinion, BYU enters the impending conference realignment shifts in a position of strength. The reason why is because the Cougars have a sweet deal with ESPN in their back pocket. Also, they have the freedom as an independent to go where they want — assuming they are wanted — without having to worry about exit fees, grant-of-rights buyouts, etc. Of course, that’s assuming ESPN cooperates. Don’t discount how much ESPN will dictate movement — once the powerful SEC gets done doing whatever it wants.

Where will BYU end up? I honestly have no idea. My best guess is that the Cougars will stand pat, especially if the college football playoff is expanded and they see themselves as having a reasonable chance of getting into college football’s version of the Big Dance.

Dick Harmon: Bottom line, BYU will do what BYU wants to do and if it is staying independent with a hookup in basketball with the WCC, then it will stay pat.  Like Jay mentions, BYU is in a strong position because the school will not beg to be part of a conference just for the sake of getting in. It won’t pay an exorbitant initiation fee, or forego revenue distributions just to be part of a club. Not being part of the club has given BYU tremendous freedom for exposure as seen by the ESPN and BYUtv broadcasts.

On the other hand, these opportunities do not come around very often. It is way too early to tell what the Big 12 or Pac-12 will do to react to what amounts to a 60% increase in money grab by the SEC. I do think if BYU is invited, it is more likely to be part of a 16-team Big 12 expansion than receiving an invitation to a bigger Pac-12. Culturally, BYU is a better fit in the Big 12. When and if the Big 12 begins to sift through possible candidates, they will find BYU’s facilities, overall programs, financials, and fan support to be right at the top of what they want and if ESPN adds a nudge, it could happen.  

What is different this time than in 2010 or other shakeups is the money is based on streaming rather than cable TV audiences. Cable is losing 20 million subscribers a year.  BYU’s streaming numbers have been very impressive. Finally, BYU will not change its key principles to join a conference, count on that.

Cougar Tales

Zach Wilson enters the New York Jets training camp with a lot of momentum and hype. To date, he has handled it with class and maturity.  Here is a column I wrote on the latest issues that face Wilson and the high praise he is getting from Jets’ coaches.

Here is Jay Drew’s piece on how two relatively unknown BYU football players signed the first NIL contracts under the new NCAA changes. 

From the archives

https://www.deseret.com/2021/7/25/22588868/byu-basketball-new-look-roster-mark-pope-alex-barcello-seneca-knight-tejon-lucas-caleb-lohner

https://www.deseret.com/2021/7/22/22583873/byu-football-nate-meikle-aaron-roderick-podcast-neikle-and-dimes-byu-football-kansas-notre-dame

From the Twitterverse

What a reimagined Big 12 could look like (@LukeSarriusUCF)

Beach day at BYU football training (@LasVegasBowl)

Fewest players in transfer portal by school (@ESPN-BillC)

Extra Points

Record 28 BYU players on NFL rosters (Cougar Insider)

ESPN’s FPI look at every game this season (Jeff Hansen)

Former Cougar Sander helps USA in volleyball win over France (Deseret News)

Why BYU is favored in Diamond Head Classic (Deseret News)

Fanalyst

Comments from Deseret News readers:

“Exciting stuff — I do recall a big east invite once, this is part II

“I don’t think that the Bigxii will survive in the current situation. 

“That being said, it’s years away and you’ve got grumbling of USC getting louder and louder and so in the next 4 years one should assume that there will be more changes and more shifts. 

“There is this notion that a super conference will eventually be established and that’s the one where the big money teams play — it’s called the SEC and it might absorb USC and Oregon in time.”

—Josh

“Best article I’ve seen on all of this said ESPN was the main mover-and-shaker orchestrating the Texas-Oklahoma move. The article said ESPN wants to corner the market on college football games that draw the biggest viewing audiences. With the addition of Texas and Oklahoma, the SEC (whose TV rights ESPN will own) will have more matchups with the top 10 or 20 viewing audiences every year than any other conference. (ESPN will also hold the TV rights to the CFP that they will want to expand.)

“If the ESPN Theory is true, broadcasters, like ESPN, do not want 4 super-conferences of 16 teams each. They want 2 super-conferences of 16 or less teams, or some approximation thereof.

“Broadcasters couldn’t care less about matchups like Washington State-Arizona, Kansas State-Texas Tech, Northwestern-Indiana, or Wake Forest-Boston College. They want more games like Oklahoma-Alabama, Texas-LSU, Michigan-Notre Dame, Clemson-Ohio State, Oregon-Georgia, USC-Auburn. (Sorry. the only BYU game and Utah game they really want is BYU-Utah. And even then, its not going to be an Eastern Time Zone prime-time matchup.)”

—Vermonter

Up next

Aug. 14 | 7 p.m. | Women’s soccer | vs. Weber State | @Provo

Aug. 19 | 7 p.m. | Women’s soccer | vs. Ohio State | @Provo

Aug. 21 | 7 p.m. | Women’s soccer | vs. Auburn | @Provo

Aug. 26 | 7 p.m. | Women’s soccer | vs. USC | @Provo

Sept. 4 | 9:30 p.m. | Football | vs. Arizona | @Las Vegas

Sept. 11 | 8:15 p.m. | Football | vs. Utah | @Provo