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Brad Rock: A conference will come calling for Cougars

Published: Thursday, May 26 2011 8:47 p.m. MDT

There was an unconfirmed Internet rumor last week that BYU had turned down an invitation by the Big East Conference to become a football-only member. Since no mainstream news organization that I saw picked up the story, I'm not saying it's necessarily true.

Still, it's interesting BYU's name keeps coming up. The Cougars continue to be mentioned as a possible addition to an expanded Big 12, too. I don't know the conference's master plan, nor do I know how it would handle BYU's no-Sunday policy. But I do know one thing: The Big 12 has only 10 teams.

Even I can do the math on that.

The other thing I know is that since the Cougars are independent in football, they can play in their own sandbox until someone invites them to the playground. After all the analyzing, it really comes down to whether someone would want BYU. The answer is no — unless they want 65,000 fans at every game in football and 20,000-plus in basketball, and a built-in fan base in nearly every market in the country.

In that case, yeah, you'd probably want BYU.

This isn't complicated. College football is all about money, and BYU can make money for someone's conference.

The Big East is in expansion mode and wants to beef up its football profile. It already did so by adding TCU, which is reason enough to expect BYU will get somebody's invitation. BYU outdraws TCU in both revenue sports. Provo doesn't exactly fit the Big East geographically, but if that were a deal breaker, what's Sacramento State doing in the Big Sky or South Florida in the Big East?

For that matter, what's Hawaii doing in anyone's conference?

The Big 12 remains an attractive possibility for the Cougars. It is undersized. It is fairly accommodating. (Just ask Texas, which got everything it wanted, and a bag of chips.) If the conference is willing to go along with Texas' special TV deal, it might agree to work with BYU on some things. After a scare that almost collapsed the league, the Big 12 should be willing to go along with almost anything, Sunday non-play included.

Scheduling around BYU's religious tenets might be a pain, but not as painful as a going-out-of-business sale.

If I were BYU, I wouldn't be all that worried. It has a plan. For now, it can just cash its ESPN checks until conference affiliation comes along.

At the same time, some BYU fans (but nobody else) think permanent independence is the way to go. They argue it's the only way the school can avoid the demands imposed by a conference. (There's that Sunday issue again.) But it's tough getting to BCS bowls all by your lonesome. This independence thing is fine for now — and more lucrative than the Mountain West — but BYU's football schedules will be as uneven as a lunar landscape. For every Texas, Notre Dame, West Virginia or Georgia Tech, there will probably be a San Jose State, New Mexico State or Idaho.

I view independence the way I view buying on credit, no money down, six months no interest: It may look unbeatable at first, but down the road. ...

Seeing the woebegone WAC's attempts to remake itself reminds me that super conferences are viable. There are only so many teams out there, which works in BYU's favor. It is near the top of the mid-majors, regularly ranked among the 30 most successful athletics programs in the country. If there is a weeding out, BYU is far more likely to be included than to be left off. I'd be more worried if I were Washington State, Rutgers or Iowa State. If I were Wyoming or San Jose State, I'd plan a garage sale.

BYU doesn't have all the answers, but it does have options. As the realignments and expansions continue, another conference or a new one will come calling. At which point BYU will open the door and say, "How nice of you to drop by. What took you so long?"

email: rock@desnews.com

Twitter: therockmonster

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