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How long will it take BYU to gain traction in Big 12?

Cross-country and track teams should hit the ground running in the Power Five league, but it may take time for other sports to get up to speed

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A Big 12 Conference logo is displayed on a goal line pylon before Duquesne played TCU in Fort Worth, Texas.

A Big 12 Conference logo is displayed on a goal line pylon before Duquesne played TCU in Fort Worth, Texas. BYU, UCF, Cincinnati and Houston will be joining the Power Five league in 2023.

Ron Jenkins, Associated Press

This article was first published in the Cougar Insiders newsletter. Sign up to receive the newsletter in your inbox each Tuesday night.

As summer kicks off in the Intermountain West, BYU’s track and field teams produced big wins at the NCAA championships in Eugene, Oregon. The Cougar women finished ninth and had a javelin thrower Ashton Riner and steeplechase runner Courtney Wayment win individual titles. Wayment set a new collegiate record in her steeplechase victory.

Cougar Insiders predictions

Question of the week: Will BYU’s track and field program be the biggest impact sport in the Big 12 after the results of the past few years in cross-country and the NCAA indoor and outdoor track and field championships?

Jay Drew: The more I consider this question and study the Big 12, the more I believe that BYU’s marquee sports, its revenue sports, will struggle in the Power Five conference more than its Olympic sports will struggle.

Certainly, men’s and women’s basketball will do well to finish in the top two-thirds of the league. The Big 12 is that good in basketball. I believe BYU’s best sports in the Big 12 will be women’s soccer, women’s volleyball and then track and field and cross-country.

I don’t see the track and field program dropping much in the Big 12 because of coaching and tradition. The Cougars have some of the best coaches in the country directing their programs in Ed Eyestone and Diljeet Taylor. And as another outstanding coach, Mark Robison, told me a few weeks ago, the Cougars make the most of the limited scholarships they get in track and cross-country by getting athletes to walk on, due to the school’s relatively low tuition costs.

I also foresee BYU’s baseball and softball teams struggling quite a bit, particularly in the first few years. As for football, that will be really intriguing. I am still a bit undecided on how Kalani Sitake’s program will fare in the Big 12. Certainly, however, the coach has the program on the right track.

Dick Harmon: All you need to do is look at the recruiting rankings for football and basketball and compare them with the rest of the new Big 12. BYU football ranks in the mid-50s. Most of the rest of the league ranks lower than 30. What it tells you is BYU will need to do what it has always done and overachieve with talent, utilize older, more mature athletes and take advantage of their focus to compete in those sports. They won’t do it in talent alone.

We’ve seen BYU’s approach be successful in football in recent wins over Tennessee, Virginia, Utah, USC, ASU, Michigan State, Texas and others. In basketball, the Cougars will be hard-pressed to finish .500 in the Big 12. But in that league, teams with .500 records go to the Big Dance.

No question track coaches Eyestone, Taylor and Robison have elevated their programs and athletes. On a national level, they do get some of the top recruits in the country and produce national champions. Bottom line: BYU will be a Big 12 leader in this sport.

Football, basketball, baseball, golf and others will need to get traction with increased Big 12 money and create an investment to elevate. We shall see how long it takes.

Cougar Tales

Here is a breakdown by Doug Robinson of the remarkable performance of BYU’s track team over the past few seasons. When you look at the big picture, it is a nationally respected effort that is becoming consistent and predictable in NCAA competition.

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Comments from Deseret News readers

Ya it’s going to be really tough for us. Instead of just one really good team, Gonzaga, it’s gonna be like playing 3 or 4 Gonzaga’s every season and the rest of the Big 12 teams will be like Saint Mary’s or slightly better. Unless Pope brings is some elite talent that can play right away via the portal or HS recruiting we’ll be cellar-dwellers for years to come.

— Steve24/7

BYU might get beat up for awhile, but over time recruiting will hopefully improve and BYU will be positioned to make some waves in the league — and beyond.

Whatever happens, it is going to be fun to see a bunch of really good teams coming to Provo!

— Baazian31

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June 22 | 8 a.m. | Football media day | @Provo | BYU Broadcasting