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Mike Sorensen: Time for BYU to get in before it is left out

Published: Sunday, Sept. 25 2011 9:04 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — It's funny how one's perspective can change overnight.

Last week when it looked like the Pac-12 might expand by four teams and add Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech, some BYU fans snickered at the prospect of the rival Utes having to suddenly be in a division where they would make annual trips to Lubbock, Texas and Stillwater, Okla., instead of Los Angeles and the Bay Area.

Hardly 24 hours later, Cougar fans were doing cartwheels over the prospect of making trips to Lubbock and Stillwater . . . not to mention, Ames, Iowa, Manhattan, Kan., and Waco, Texas.

Those out-of-the way places are part of the Big 12 Conference, which is one of the current six BCS conferences, something that Cougar fans have aspired to for a long time.

But apparently the folks in Provo aren't beating the door down, trying to join the Big 12.

Various reports have said BYU isn't aggressively pursuing a bid to join the Big 12 and that the conference is looking at other schools such as TCU, Louisville and West Virginia, in addition to BYU. Now that Texas A&M is officially on its way to the SEC, it's possible the league will add one school to get to 10, add three schools to get back to its old namesake of 12, or be content to stay at nine for awhile.

No one at BYU is talking publicly, of course, and as usual, nothing is leaking out of Provo, where secrets are better kept than anywhere else in the country.

BYU officials are wise to be cautious at this point with all the upheaval in college athletics these days. If the Big 12 is on shaky ground and disintegrates soon after the Cougars join up, they could get left behind with the likes of Iowa State, Baylor and Kansas State and perhaps out of any future BCS or "super-conference" picture.

On the surface, it seems obvious BYU should hope to join one of the current six BCS conferences, particularly the Big 12.

BYU would be playing some of the top football programs such as Oklahoma and Texas, two programs that the Cougars have proved they can compete with over the past three years (the 2009 victory over Oklahoma and this year's 1-point loss to Texas). In men's basketball and most other men's and women's sports, the Cougars could compete just fine with Big 12 schools.

While it might seem like a no-brainer to pursue the Big 12, ever since declaring their independence 14 months ago, BYU officials have stressed how that fits well with the mission of the university and their quest for exposure with their state-of-the-art television studio and ESPN contract.

But before joining a league like the Big 12, there are questions that need to be answered, including the stability of the league.

Will BYU be able to keep its own TV network if it joins the Big 12? Apparently Texas is able to, but would accommodations be made for a newcomer like BYU?

Even if BYU is allowed to keep BYUtv to show minor sports and replays of football games, will the Cougars get as much exposure under a Big 12 TV contract as it would with its current ESPN deal?

What about BYU's no-games-on-Sunday policy? Is the Big 12 willing to accommodate BYU like the WAC and Mountain West Conference did over the past 50 years?

Does BYU want to get in the middle of what seems to be a jealous feud between Oklahoma and Texas?

How about just being in a conference with Texas? BYU has to ask itself, if it wants to be in a conference with a school that seems to think it is better than everyone else.

Does it want to be the only western school in a Midwest league? Unlike the MWC where it had just one trip over 750 miles, every trip in the Big 12 will be longer than that and the average distance is over 1,000 miles. Only Lubbock (872 miles) and Manhattan, Kan., (975 miles) are less than 1,000 miles from Provo.

Personally, I hope BYU gets a Big 12 invite and accepts. In the long run, it is better to be connected to a conference than be independent in football. And even though BYU currently has a connection to the West Coast Conference, it will be better to be playing the likes of Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas than Gonzaga, St. Mary's and Pepperdine in sports like men's basketball.

And with the strong possibility of 16-team super-conferences coming within the next five years or so, BYU needs to get in with the in-crowd and not get left on the outside looking in.

Email: sor@desnews.com

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