ARLINGTON, Texas — Of the 14 schools participating in the Big 12 football media days Wednesday and Thursday in Arlington, Texas, BYU is perhaps the most unfamiliar with this kind of setting.

“I think there are a lot of people … that are predicting that we are not going to do much this year. They won’t understand it. We will see what happens. But that’s OK. I don’t mind people not knowing about us yet.” — BYU coach Kalani Sitake

The Cougars, who left the Mountain West Conference for football independence after the 2010 season, have not attended a conference’s football media day since July 28, 2010, at the Red Rock Resort in Las Vegas.

Of course, about a month later — on Sept. 1, 2010 — the school announced it was going rogue in football and putting most of its other sports in the West Coast Conference. The following summer, BYU held its own football media day on campus on July 12, 2011, and touted its eight-year partnership with ESPN.

So pardon coach Kalani Sitake and the five players who have accompanied him to AT&T Stadium for feeling a bit like greenhorns at the home of the Dallas Cowboys.

“Looking at what the Big 12 has done as a conference — they are innovative and they create ways to do things and be unique,” Sitake said after what was likely BYU’s last pro day on March 24. “… I like what I have seen from the leadership of this conference.”

BYU has sent punter Ryan Rehkow, quarterback Kedon Slovis, receiver Kody Epps, linebacker Ben Bywater and defensive end Tyler Batty to the event. The Cougars are in the group that will do interviews and appearances on Wednesday, along with TCU, Kansas, Baylor, Oklahoma State, Texas and fellow newcomer Houston — a school BYU is not scheduled to face this fall.

Festivities kick off Wednesday with an 11 a.m. MDT address from Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark — who was introduced as the league’s new commissioner at this event last year and promptly proclaimed that the conference was “open for business” as far as further expansion was concerned.

ESPNU will televise Yormark’s address live, while it will also be streamed on ESPN+.

Speaking of which, expansion figures to be the top storyline for the get-together, as the league clearly has made overtures to Pac-12 schools such as Utah, Colorado, Arizona and Arizona State in light of their league’s struggles to finalize a media rights deal.

When asked about expansion on June 26, Sitake took a hands-off approach and said he’s OK with whatever the Big 12 decides and reiterated his satisfaction with how the league handles its business.

As for his dealings with other Big 12 coaches and athletic directors at some meetings last spring in Arizona, Sitake said he’s been impressed with their candor, openness and desire for unity.

“It was interesting to hear their stories, and interesting for them to hear what we have here at BYU. For the most part, there are a lot of the same problems, when you are dealing with young people,” Sitake said. “But I am always going to talk about our place. I see it as a competitive advantage that we have here and when people see that we have restrictions, I think it is a filter for me to get the right guys to play here.”

As for BYU being picked to finish 11th last week by the league’s media representatives, Sitake has mostly shrugged off the low expectations.

“I think there are a lot of people … that are predicting that we are not going to do much this year,” he said. “They won’t understand it. We will see what happens. But that’s OK. I don’t mind people not knowing about us yet.”

Another key storyline will be the departures of Texas and Oklahoma after this season, juxtaposed against the arrivals of the four newcomers.

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Appearing on “Cougar Sports with Ben Criddle” on ESPN 960 Sports on Monday, longtime Big 12 columnist Berry Tramel of the Oklahoman called it a scenario right out of a Beatles song.

“It’s going to be a Beatles’ ‘Hello, Goodbye’ media days because it’s goodbye to Texas and Oklahoma and hello to Cincinnati, UCF, Houston and BYU,” Tramel said.

Another storyline that should interest BYU fans is the plight of former Cougars quarterback Steve Sarkisian, now the head coach at Texas. Expectations are high for the Longhorns in their final season in a conference they have failed to dominate like many expected they would.

How will Sitake’s former teammate at the Y. handle those heavy expectations?

Sarkisian will take the podium at 2:25 p.m. MDT Wednesday, while Sitake will follow at 2:50 p.m. MDT in the news conference for reporters at the site.

BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe gestures while announcing that BYU has accepted an invitation to the Big 12 Conference.
BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe gestures while stating, “I love the fact that we get to go into the Big 12 with all our teams” during a press conference announcing that BYU has accepted an invitation to the Big 12 Conference at BYU in Provo on Friday, Sept. 10, 2021. BYU will play all sports provided by the Big 12 except for equestrian, rowing and wrestling. Men’s volleyball will continue to play in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, as the Big 12 does not offer the sport. | Laura Seitz, Deseret News