BYU football: Cougars invited to join Big East, but have not accepted invitation — yet
"He has a lot at stake because he's an alum of the Big East. And if there's anyone that knows the networks well, Tagliabue does," Williams said. "He basically negotiated in excess of $17 billion worth of television contracts. There's not a network person that he does not know. Having an unpaid consultant like him is not a bad thing. One of the key elements here is that high-ranking representatives at Notre Dame are working with Tagliabue to make sure that Boise State, BYU and Air Force all understand that they're not going anywhere. Their plans are to stay and to help build the Big East into a stronger conference. Of course, they're also not going to join as a football team."
At the time BYU announced it was going independent, it also announced a six-game football series with Notre Dame.
"Most of the conversations have been led by former commissioner Paul Tagliabue. That's gone along well," he explained. "As far as I know, every question that BYU has asked has been answered. They've been assured that they can keep their present network, if that's what they so desire."
The Big East is in self-preservation mode after watching Syracuse, Pittsburgh, TCU and West Virginia announce this fall that they will be defecting to other conferences.
In an attempt to reposition and strengthen itself, the Big East is looking at adding a West Division that would be comprised of BYU, Boise State, Air Force, Houston, Louisville and Southern Methodist. BYU, Boise State, Air Force, Houston, and Southern Methodist would join as football-only schools first, with an opportunity to join as full members down the line, Williams said. The Big East would like to make an announcement in December, he added.
"There's no question that the Big East is swinging for the fences here, trying to pull in BYU, Boise State, Air Force and the rest of these teams," Williams said. "The lynchpin in many ways is whether BYU wants to do it or not. If BYU chooses not to do it, who's next on their pecking order? Is it San Diego State or another West Coast school or a team in the Mountain Time Zone? The Big East wants a national name and a national footprint. I wouldn't say BYU isn't holding up things, but the Big East is willing to wait to get an answer from BYU. But nobody is holding a gun to anybody's head saying they need to know tomorrow. If things are progressing well, if they let it go into January, BYU may be more apt to say yes. I do believe there is a finite period here. The Big East has to have a new contract negotiated over the summer. They need their schools in place by February or March."
One of the main reasons why BYU decided to go independent was exposure. The school signed an eight-year broadcasting agreement with ESPN and it has its own television network, BYUtv. Would BYU be willing to give that up so soon?
"That's one of the biggest things that would be on my mind," Mendenhall said. "The amount of coverage we've received this year is so, so strong, it would have to be a great conference package to make sense. I love the idea of being in a conference, but that would have to be with the exposure and access to the top tier of football. I'm not speaking for the university or anybody else. I'll tell you, the ESPN part of it, that would be very difficult to give up."
"If it were a business decision, I can't fathom how BYU would not look at (joining the Big East) as a good business decision," Williams said. "But if independence is the key to what the Board of Trustees wants, then I don't think anything that Paul Tagliabue says or any amount of money can give to them, or to assure to them, is necessarily going to make that much of a difference. I know BYU has a strong West Coast connection. BYU is a national school. I can't fathom that it wouldn't benefit them to play games in New York, the Washington, D.C. area, Florida and Texas and to move around the East Coast corridor and have a presence on the East Coast. I don't know where that would hurt them on any level. It would enhance their ESPN contract because every Big East game is broadcast now. There's no reason to believe every Big East game wouldn't be televised under a new contract."
Williams said BYU's stance on not playing on Sunday played a big factor in BYU not being invited to the Big 12. There are several Catholic schools in the East Coast that would prefer not playing on Sundays.
"Circumstances are a bit different in the Big East because there are so many Catholic schools that they all have little ways of working around the Sunday schedule," Williams said. "That's not to say they don't play on Sunday, but they do play a limited Sunday schedule."
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