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BYU’s first Big 12 meetings were ‘awkward,’ mostly uneventful

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said BYU will ‘defer’ to the conference regarding the Cougars’ ESPN contract, BYUtv usage

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BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe speaks at a press conference where the school announced it accepted an invitation to join the Big 12 Conference.

BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe speaks at a press conference where the school announced it accepted an invitation to join the Big 12 Conference in Provo on Friday, Sept. 10, 2021. At right, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby joins via video conference. BYU recently participated in its first Big 12 meetings.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

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

BYU’s first official Big 12 meetings came and went in Irving, Texas, last week with a little bit of awkwardness and tension — thanks to the fact that departing members Texas and Oklahoma are still attending — but not much in the way of clarification on some key questions.

BYU president Kevin Worthen, athletic director Tom Holmoe, athletic faculty representative David Hart and senior woman administrator Liz Darger were among BYU’s representatives at the Four Seasons Resort in suburban Dallas.

Some fans hoped the Big 12 would come up with a model to adopt divisions and give an idea of how those divisions would look, but that didn’t happen. Nor was much said publicly about a new television contract. The league’s current television contract with Fox Sports and ESPN expires after the 2024-25 season.

Of course, not knowing for sure when Texas and Oklahoma will leave, or when the three American Athletic Conference schools — Cincinnati, UCF and Houston — will join, makes hammering out those issues extra difficult.

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby did discuss how BYUtv could fit into the equation. Basically, he said, the BYU-owned television station that the Cougars use to televise more than 100 live sporting events a school year and a daily one-hour show called “BYU Sports Nation” will be utilized, but to what extent isn’t clear.

BYU also has its own contract with ESPN that will have to be rolled into the equation somehow.

“They have told us that they intend to defer to us,” Bowlsby said. “I think eventually we will roll their ESPN package into the Big 12 package. We haven’t had those discussions yet, but we will.”

Bowlsby said Big 12 leaders have had discussions with BYU, but not with ESPN.

“It is really not very material (to the negotiations), one way or the other,” he said.

The Cougars become a full Big 12 member on July 1, 2023. Houston, Cincinnati and UCF will join no later than July 1, 2024, but are trying to get into the conference at the same time BYU does. Negotiations regarding exit fees with the AAC are ongoing.

Texas and Oklahoma are also working to move to the SEC, and presumably negotiating the financial details and exit fees with that as well. The presence of the Sooners and Longhorns prompted Bowlsby to call the meetings unusual and tense.

“This meeting has got some weirdness to it,” Bowlsby said. “I would be less than forthright to not admit that there’s some strangeness to it, and perhaps even some periods when there’s a little bit of tension. But you know, people are working together in good faith. We get along and work together because we have to.”

In its official release after the meetings, the Big 12 made the following announcements:

• $42.6 million will be distributed to each institution, an increase of 20% from last year and a 9% increase from pre-pandemic levels.

• The annual Big 12 men’s and women’s Sportsmanship Awards will be re-named the Bob Bowlsby Awards.

• The Big 12’s women’s basketball tournament will move to the T-Mobile Center in Kansas City and will be played the week before the men’s basketball tournament at the same venue.

Cougar tales

Thanks for subscribing to our Cougar Insiders newsletter and checking it out this week. Although I’ve appeared in this newsletter from time to time to answer the question of the week, I am authoring it this week and next because Dick Harmon is on vacation.

June is a rather quiet time for sports in Utah, and sports at BYU, with the exception of the NCAA Track and Field Championships. The Cougars almost always send a strong contingent of athletes to nationals, and will again this year.

For me, an early June highlight is always the annual charity golf event benefitting the National Kidney Foundation of Utah and Idaho. BYU football coach Kalani Sitake and Utah coach Kyle Whittingham face off in a friendly golf competition, a four-person scramble and then take some time to chat with the media about their teams and whatever other issues have surfaced since spring camps ended.

Monday, they also commented on the sudden resignation of Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder.

BYU basketball also remained in the news, as BYU coach Mark Pope discussed the move of assistant coach Chris Burgess to Utah and newcomer Rudi Williams talked to the Deseret News’ Jeff Call about making the transfer from Coastal Carolina.

Also, former Cougars hoopster Lee Cummard was added to Amber Whiting’s staff as women’s basketball associate head coach. The program was dealt a blow when All-American guard Shaylee Gonzales announced she had entered the transfer portal.

Last weekend was huge for BYU football recruiting, spelled out here by yours truly.

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Comments from Deseret News readers

Putting fandoms aside, if I was offered by Utah with pay $265K a year versus $165K from BYU without having to move, then I would take that job too (as Chris Burgess did). Utah has had less than stellar seasons recently, but they are still a solid program historically. I still believe Craig Smith is a great coach, and this year will be very telling if he can take this program somewhere. He has seemingly solid transfers and recruits to pull off a much improved season if it all comes together.

— Mark321

Great story (on BYU getting a seat at the Power Five table). BYU fans will need to be patient just like Utah fans had to be patient when Utah joined the Pac-12. It will take several years to ramp up recruiting in order compete consistently in the Big-12. On the bright side, no more games with New Mexico State in November in the snow.

— 65TossPowerTrap

Up next

June 8-11 | Track and field | NCAA championships | @Eugene, Oregon

June 22 | Football | BYU football media day | @Provo