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There are rumblings the Big 12 is discussing expansion. Should BYU consider it if a call comes?

The Athletic reported Friday the Big 12 is “seriously discussing” BYU as an expansion candidate. Could the Power Five league prove a stable home for the university?

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BYU’s Jamaal Williams stiff-arms a West Virginia player. If the Big 12 chooses to expand and BYU were to accept an offer, BYU and West Virginia would become conference rivals.

BYU Cougars running back Jamaal Williams (21) stiff-arms West Virginia Mountaineers linebacker Sean Walters (27) during play at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland, on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016. If the Big 12 chooses to expand and BYU were to accept an offer, BYU and West Virginia would become conference rivals.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

BYU has been here before: There are reports that the Big 12 is considering expansion, and the Provo, Utah-based institution is a strong candidate in those discussions. 

This time, the rumblings about the Big 12 looking to expand are spurred on because charter members Texas and Oklahoma are bolting for the SEC, and with the Pac-12 announcing Thursday that it will not expand, the remaining eight members of the Big 12 can consider their options for the beleaguered Power Five league.

The question is, if BYU is asked to join a Big 12 minus Texas and Oklahoma, would it?

There may be some things to consider on that front in the near future. The Athletic’s Max Olson and Andy Staples reported Friday morning that the Big 12 is “seriously discussing” BYU as an expansion candidate. The duo shared research that shows BYU is a favorable expansion candidate based on TV viewership data. 

“Between 2015 and ’19, the median audience Big 12 teams (minus games involving Texas and Oklahoma) drew for 36 games broadcast on ABC, Fox or ESPN was 1.786 million viewers. BYU’s numbers were comparable; the Cougars’ median audience in 16 games broadcast on those channels was 1.64 million,” Olson and Staples wrote. 

“For 104 games broadcast on ESPN2, ESPNU, Fox Sports 1 or Fox Sports 2, the remaining Big 12 schools drew a median audience of 482,000. BYU drew a median audience of 682,000 from 20 broadcasts on those networks.”

The Big 12 has formed an expansion subcommittee

Just how serious could these Big 12 expansion talks be getting? 

The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reported Thursday night that the Big 12 has formed a four-person expansion subcommittee consisting of Kansas chancellor Douglas Girod, Texas Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt, Iowa State president Wendy Wintersteen and Baylor AD Mack Rhoades.

“Right now, our complete focus is to make the Big 12 as strong as it can possibly be,” Hocutt said, per the Avalanche-Journal, “and I expect that Texas Tech will play a leadership role in that. We’re going to continue to be part of the power-five structure in college athletics.”

The subcommittee reportedly met with the Big 12 presidents on Friday and will meet with Big 12 athletic directors and media and television consultants next week, per the Avalanche-Journal.

ESPN’s Heather Dinich reported that, regarding possible Big 12 expansion, one source said, “everything is on the table … our options are looking at many schools.”

Should BYU consider joining the Big 12 if offered?

One day after writing that BYU is a “no-brainer” add for the Big 12 if it expands, The Oklahoman’s Berry Tramel joined BYU Sports Nation on Friday. He said the fit for BYU in the Big 12 would be good, though the school should have questions about the stability of a Power Five league losing its two most recognizable programs. 

“I think the Big 12 needs BYU more than BYU needs the Big 12 at this point,” Tramel said. “But now, that doesn’t mean they don’t need each other. They need each other immensely, but there’s a little bit more risk for BYU. What if Brigham Young joins the Big 12, and then in 2025, the Pac-12 changes its mind and poaches more members?”

Tramel also touched on what joining a Power Five conference could do for BYU.

“The profile of BYU has slipped a little nationally,” he said. “I think that can be brought up pretty quickly with a steady diet of Power Five opponents, particularly in a conference. There’s tons of advantages of being in a Power Five conference like this.”