BYU is poised to join the Big 12 Conference and embrace the coveted status of a Power Five football program. While this marriage may appear to have come together quickly, as the Big 12 scrambles to replace the departing Texas and Oklahoma, the fact is they have been courting each other for decades. They just didn’t know it.
The genealogy of what constitutes today’s Big 12 predates World War I. The once-elite Big Eight was formed in 1908 with Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Iowa State, Nebraska and Colorado as its founding members.
The Southwest Conference was born in 1914 and featured Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Baylor, SMU, TCU, Rice and Arkansas.
Turmoil over television contracts and defections arose, and, motivated by self-preservation, the Big Eight and the four big Texas schools from the Southwest Conference merged in 1994 to create the Big 12.
Additional movement, including those that are happening today, has changed the landscape of the league, but not the history. Through the years, BYU has crossed paths with the Big 12’s biggest names and its relatives, to create some of the most significant moments in BYU school history.
Here’s a quick look at those games.
Sept. 6, 1972: The Cougars defeated Kansas State in Provo 32-9 in the head coaching debut of LaVell Edwards. The win over the Wildcats triggered a Hall of Fame career for Edwards, who amassed 257 victories and won the 1984 national championship. His career culminated with the renaming of Cougar Stadium to LaVell Edwards Stadium during his final home game.
Dec. 28, 1974: Oklahoma State upset No. 17 BYU 16-6 in the Fiesta Bowl in a game where quarterback Gary Sheide suffered a separated shoulder in the first quarter. This was the Cougars’ first bowl game. They have played in 37 bowl games since.
Sept. 8, 1979: BYU’s Marc Wilson threw a pass to Mike Lacey for a two-point conversion with 52 seconds left to upset No. 9 Texas A&M, 18-17, in Houston. The game marked the first live football broadcast on KBYU, which is the ancestor of BYUtv.
Dec. 19, 1980: Jim McMahon’s famous last-second bomb to Clay Brown and Kurt Gunther’s extra point gave No. 14 BYU a stunning 46-45 victory over No. 19 SMU in the Holiday Bowl. The Cougars rallied from a 20-point deficit to score 21 points in the final 21⁄2 minutes to win their first bowl game.
Sept. 10, 1983: Baylor scored with 49 seconds left to upset BYU 40-36 in the season opener in Waco. The Cougars responded by winning 25 straight games, including a 47-13 victory over the Bears in Provo during the 1984 national championship season.
Dec. 23, 1983: Steve Young caught a pass from running back Eddie Stinnett and scampered 14 yards to the end zone with 23 seconds to play to give No. 9 BYU a 21-17 win over Missouri in the Holiday Bowl. Young became the first quarterback in school history to throw for a touchdown, catch a touchdown and run for a touchdown in the same game.
Dec. 19, 1994: John Walsh threw for 454 yards and four touchdowns as No. 22 BYU routed Oklahoma in the Copper Bowl, 31-6. A stifling BYU defense didn’t allow the Sooners to cross midfield until their ninth possession, which came late in the third quarter.
Aug. 24, 1996: Steve Sarkisian threw for 536 yards and six touchdowns, including the game-winning strike to K.O. Kealaluhi with 1:03 remaining to upset No. 13 Texas A&M in the Pigskin Classic in Provo. The self-proclaimed “Wrecking Crew” Aggie defense wilted in the hot sun to open the college football season. In fact, The Washington Post began its game report with “Steve Sarkisian wrecked the Wrecking Crew.”
Jan. 1, 1997: Sarkisian hit Kealaluhi on a 28-yard touchdown pass with 3:39 to play to give No. 5 BYU a 19-15 Cotton Bowl victory over No. 14 Kansas State. Omarr Morgan intercepted a pass at the 12-yard line to seal the victory in BYU’s only New Year’s Day bowl appearance in a game televised on CBS. The Cougars finished the season 14-1.
Sept. 28, 2006: John Beck threw for 321 yards and three touchdowns as BYU stunned No. 15 TCU in Fort Worth, Texas. The win snapped the Horned Frogs’ nation-leading winning streak at 13 games.
Sept. 5, 2009: Max Hall hit McKay Jacobson for a 7-yard touchdown pass with 3:03 to play to give BYU a 14-13 upset of No. 3 Oklahoma in the first college football game played in the new Dallas Cowboys Stadium. It was also BYU’s first win over a top-3 opponent since defeating No. 1 Miami in 1990.
Sept. 7, 2013: Taysom Hill rushed for 259 yards and three touchdowns as BYU crushed No. 15 Texas 40-21 at Edwards Stadium. The start of the game was delayed for nearly two hours by a tremendous thunderstorm.
Sept. 6, 2014: Hill rushed for 99 yards and three touchdowns as BYU delivered a repeat beat-down at No. 25 Texas 41-7 in Austin. During the Cougars’ back-to-back wins over the Longhorns, Hill combined for 353 rushing yards and six touchdowns, including a play where he leaped over a Texas defender and danced his way into the end zone.
Sept. 5, 2015: Tanner Mangum, playing for the injured Hill, connected with Mitch Mathews on a 42-yard touchdown as time expired to stun Nebraska 33-28. The Cougars handed the Huskers their first season-opening defeat in 30 years.
BYU has not played a Big 12 foe (or relative) since losing a neutral-site game against West Virginia in 2016, but the Cougars will get a steady diet of conference opponents if they become a member of the league.
Dave McCann is a contributor to the Deseret News and is the studio host for “After Further Review,” co-host for “Countdown to Kickoff” and the “Postgame Show” and play-by-play announcer for BYUtv.