Source: BYU officials ‘are confident’ Cougars will be voted into the Big 12 on Friday
The big question — whether BYU will join the Power Five conference in 2022 or 2023 — could be answered Friday after the Big 12 presidents issue invitations to the Cougars, Cincinnati, UCF and Houston
BYU’s days of college football independence and as a member of the West Coast Conference in the school’s other sports appear to be coming to an end.
Multiple news outlets have reported in recent days that the Big 12 will formally extend an invitation to BYU, Cincinnati, Central Florida and Houston to join the league on Friday. The Big 12 presidents reportedly will vote Friday morning whether to bring BYU and the three current members of the American Athletic Conference into the fold.
Pete Thamel of Yahoo reported Wednesday that the vote “is largely considered a formality.”
Sources told Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports that the presidents will “rubber stamp” their discussions with a unanimous vote on Friday.
“Of all the possible options the Big 12 could have added, BYU was the most obvious. It has a proud history and recent success in football, a national fan base and minimal red tape to cut through as an independent without a conference to leave.” — ESPN’s Kyle Bonagura
A BYU source confirmed to the Deseret News Wednesday night that the school completed the application process and BYU officials “are confident” that the Cougars will be voted in.
Athletic director Tom Holmoe said on BYUtv last Saturday before BYU’s 24-16 win over Arizona in Las Vegas that BYU has maintained a good relationship with Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby since 2016, when the league explored expansion but ultimately decided against it.
This time, the process has moved at a frenetic pace.
Less than two months ago, the Big 12 learned it would be losing its biggest brands, Texas and Oklahoma, to the SEC. Last month, the Pac-12 announced it would not be expanding in the near future, causing the remaining eight schools in the Big 12 to consider expansion as a means of solidifying the league.
A timeline for when BYU and the others will begin competing in the Big 12 is not clear. The Longhorns and Sooners, who reportedly are not voting Friday, are contracted to stay in the Big 12 until 2025, but buyouts before then are likely.
As for when the four newcomers will begin playing in the Big 12, that, too, is uncertain. Because of its independent status in football, BYU should have an easier time making the transition in that sport than the others.
However, most experts believe all four schools will probably join together, most likely in 2023.
“Of all the possible options the Big 12 could have added, BYU was the most obvious,” wrote Kyle Bonagura of ESPN. “It has a proud history and recent success in football, a national fan base and minimal red tape to cut through as an independent without a conference to leave.”
Another question that BYU administrators have yet to answer is what kind of exit fee, if any, the Cougars must pay to leave the WCC, a collection of faith-based schools in California, Oregon and Washington that do not play football and pride themselves for having Gonzaga’s nationally prominent men’s basketball program and several above-average women’s soccer and volleyball programs.
BYU “fits geographically, and the religious component — which is widely understood to be a road block for Pac-12 membership — isn’t an issue in a conference with Baylor and TCU,” which were also founded by faith-based institutions, Bonagura wrote.
Among the current Big 12 coaches who believe BYU belongs in a Power Five conference is Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy, who said Monday that, “Coast to coast, people see BYU as a Power Five team.”
The other Big 12 members are Iowa State, Baylor, Kansas State, TCU, Kansas, Texas Tech and West Virginia.
When BYU announced it was leaving the Mountain West Conference in 2010 and began playing as a football independent in 2011, then-AD Holmoe said the Cougars would eventually like to be in a Power Five conference, but needed to be in a situation where fans could have better access to its games on television.
The Big 12 has passed over the Cougars twice, at least, adding TCU and West Virginia in 2012 and then making no moves in 2016 after a lengthy process in which it invited BYU and more than a dozen other schools to state their cases.
Now it appears the Cougars are a shoo-in to the league battling to stay afloat after the departures of OU and UT.
For BYU, the third time really should be the charm.