Note: This story has been updated since its original publication to include further reports regarding the timeline when a Big 12 invitation could be coming.
BYU’s history with expansion talks pertaining to the Big 12 Conference is long and thus far disappointing.
That desire for inclusion in a Power Five conference may finally be coming to an end, however, and at a rather quick pace.
Within hours of Action Network’s Brett McMurphy reporting Friday morning that the Big 12 could extend invitations to BYU, along with the three other top expansion targets — Cincinnati, Houston and UCF of the American Athletic Conference — by the end of this month, that timeline was expedited in a report from Sports Illustrated’s Ross Dellenger and Pat Forde.
Dellenger and Forde reported Friday afternoon that BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF are expected to apply for membership into the Big 12 next week, and that Big 12 presidents could approve their admission at a meeting Friday, Sept. 10.
Per Sports Illustrated, the Big 12 has the eight votes necessary for expansion to be approved.
Sports Illustrated reported the four teams would join the Big 12 by 2023, or 2024 at the latest. The Big 12 was forced to look at expansion with Oklahoma and Texas leaving to join the Southeastern Conference, and if what Sports Illustrated reports comes to fruition, there’s a possibility the Big 12 could be home to 14 members — including the four new schools — before Oklahoma and Texas bolt for the SEC, which is currently scheduled to happen in 2025.
This comes one day after The Athletic’s Max Olson reported the Big 12 was “focused” on BYU and the three AAC programs as the leading expansion candidates.
A few other things that stand out from Big 12 expansion reports during the past 24 hours:
- Friday morning, the Houston Chronicle’s Matt Young reported that the remaining eight members of the Big 12 are expected to vote to expand next week, and that Houston will receive unanimous approval, corroborating the later report from Sports Illustrated.
- ESPN’s Heather Dinich and Adam Rittenberg reported that officials from the four aforementioned schools have reached out to the Big 12 about membership, along with other schools.
- “TV audience, football relevancy and certainly market size” are among the key factors the Big 12 is using to determine expansion candidates, McMurphy reported. “Men’s basketball brand also is extremely important. The Big 12 is one of the best — if not the best basketball league in the country.”
When could BYU join the Big 12?
McMurphy reported that BYU could join the Power Five league by 2022, while Cincinnati, Houston and UCF “may not join until a year or two later.”
BYU’s situation is unique compared to other expansion candidates, as the Cougars are independent in football and compete in the West Coast Conference for most other sports.
That’s how BYU could theoretically join the Big 12 next season, at least in football — unlike Cincinnati, UCF and Houston, who would need to give 27 months’ notice and pay a $10 million exit fee to the AAC before leaving for the Big 12, per Olson.
“BYU is not a member of a conference in football, but must give the West Coast Conference notice for its other sports leaving the league,” Dellenger and Forde wrote.
The question becomes, then, how difficult would it be for BYU to handle its future scheduling agreements in football — the independent Cougars have future games scheduled through 2035, and at least 10 opponents secured each season through 2024.
How would the four schools benefit financially by joining the Big 12?
Sports Illustrated reported that BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF would not immediately get full revenue distribution shares when joining the Big 12, but their first-year shares would be expected to double or triple — Dellenger and Forde reported the AAC teams’ annual revenue distribution is around $6 or $7 million.
In 2020, BYU announced a new television media rights deal with its longtime partner, ESPN, through the 2026 season. As a private institution, financial teams of the deal are not made known to the public. In late 2019, KSL Sports’ Mitch Harper reported BYU’s first contract with ESPN, which began in 2010, was believed to be around $6 million per year, which would be in the same ballpark as the three AAC schools.
What other schools has the Big 12 considered?
McMurphy reported that the Big 12 has also considered Boise State, Memphis, SMU and USF as expansion candidates, though BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF are the schools in focus now.
BYU and Boise State have both been tied to Big 12 expansion talks for years, including back in 2016 when the conference went through an expansion research process before ultimately deciding to stand pat.
Many have considered BYU and Boise State ideal travel partners if they joined the Big 12 together, and they have had a long-standing relationship during the Cougars’ independence era, having played every season since 2012. The two schools are also scheduled to play every season through 2034, minus the 2024 season.