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Amid conference realignment chaos, what’s next for the Big 12?

BYU’s future conference home is looking to add value to the league for upcoming television negotiations

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Brad Clements carries off a mannequin wearing a Texas uniform as he dismantles the stage after the Big 12 media days.

Brad Clements carries off a mannequin wearing a Texas football uniform as he dismantles the stage after the Big 12 media days in Arlington, Texas, Thursday, July 14, 2022. With Texas and Oklahoma SEC-bound and USC and UCLA Big Ten-bound, the league is looking for ways to keep up with the Joneses.


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

This summer is another remarkable shift in the landscape of college football and BYU finds its new home, the Big 12, right in the middle of surviving. The Big 12 needs to disrupt or be disrupted, as new commissioner Brett Yormark told reporters at the league’s football media days in Dallas last week.

You can read Jay Drew’s reports from Dallas among these pieces: 

  • BYU benefited from support by former commish (Jay Drew)
  • Yormark wants Big 12 more hip and cooler (Jay Drew)
  • Door open for Texas, Oklahoma to leave early (Jay Drew)
  • Is there more to Pac-12, ACC talk? (Dick Harmon)
  • How much value does BYU, Utah bring (Brandon Judd)
  • Will BYU recruiting philosophy change in Big 12? (Jay Drew)

In an early-week development, the Big 12 broke off negotiations with the Pac-12 for a merger as reported here.

Cougar Insider predictions

Question of the week: Now that the Pac-12 and Big 12 have broken off talks over the weekend, what will the Big 12, under Brett Yormark’s new leadership, do next?

Jay Drew: I wasn’t at all surprised when I read Monday night that discussions between the Big 12 and Pac-12 regarding a merger of the two conferences have ended. Having been at the Big 12 football media days last week, I left the Metroplex feeling that talk of a merger was just that — talk.

The feeling I got was that neither league was willing to give an inch, and that combining forces would do nothing to increase value for the schools already in the respective leagues. What will the Brett Yormark-led Big 12 do next? It will be aggressive. Very aggressive. Yormark is a bulldog. He seems like a master negotiator, an expert at making deals. My hunch is that the Big 12 goes hard after the so-called four-corner schools — Utah, Colorado, Arizona and Arizona State — thinking that if it gets them, the heavyweights (Oregon and Washington) will follow, especially if they feel like an invitation to the Big Ten isn’t coming.

Pass the popcorn. This one is going to get good.

Dick Harmon: The way I see it, this latest chaos of conference realignment began with secrecy and poaching in the dark by the Big Ten of UCLA and USC and it will continue in that tone. I think the Big 12 did the “gentlemanly” thing by talking to the entire Pac-12 about a merger, and joining forces. It didn’t appear to work. Now the gloves come off.

The reason a merger didn’t work is because of the number of mouths that needed to be fed, the additional slices of the pie so to speak. By poaching schools, you only have to share revenue with those that add value and carry their own weight. Just like P5 Rutgers and Vanderbilt, the Pac-12 has teams that just take and give little. I think taking the four corner schools of ASU, Arizona, Colorado and Utah makes sense. If some or all think they are holding out for a Big Ten invite, tell them good luck with that fairy tale. I think Yormark makes some deals with some corporate sponsors that will sweeten the pot for all and makes a move to rob the Pac-12 and bring it to its knees. This is college football circa 2022.

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Comments from Deseret News readers

Another wrench-in-the-works is that conference realignment, especially among the current Pac-12 schools isn’t just about business. It’s about politics too.

Gov. Newsom is making rumblings about forcing UCLA to share a significant portion of its newfound Big Ten wealth with the UC Berkeley Athletic Department.

Likewise, the Oregon State Legislature may impose similar conditions on the University of Oregon if it ditches the Pac-12 without taking Oregon State University with it. And, who would be surprised if the Washington State Legislature did the same with its two premier public universities?

Imagine, the U of U being forced to share a significant portion of its football revenues with USU.

This could be another reason, people are shying away from dealing with some of the Pac-12 schools.

— Vermonter

Fellow Utes only feel it’s a step down because that’s where TDS is. Looking at the actual stats, it is a step up. Pac-12 is the lowest of the current P5 in its rankings and performance, as evidenced by what was written here (no CFP appearance in last 5 years, no basketball championships in over 25 years).

If we are in fifth of 5 P5 conferences, I fail to see (math being math) how moving to the Big 12 is a step DOWN. Big 12 is in third or maybe fourth position with ACC. Losing OU hurts them in football but honestly, Texas hasn’t been relevant in over a decade. Adding Cincy (CFP last year) and Houston, UCF and BYU made them stronger than they were, which was already stronger than we were in Pac-12.

We should hitch a ride to the Big 12 as quick as we can and enjoy that step up. I don’t think SEC or Big Ten are coming for Utah. It’s either take the step up to Big 12 (and swallow our BYU pride) or else end up in MWC or (gulp) independence.

— UtesNat

Up next

Aug. 13 | 5 p.m. | Soccer | vs. North Carolina | @Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Aug. 18 | 8 p.m. | Soccer | vs. Cal State Fullerton | @Fullerton, California

Aug. 26 | noon | Soccer | vs. Rider | @Provo


A sign at the NCAA college football Big 12 media days in Arlington, Texas, Thursday, July 14, 2022.

LM Otero, Associated Press