BYU and the Big 12: Why playing on Sunday matters to the Big 12 Conference

Published: Thursday, Feb. 21 2013 11:55 a.m. MST

An aerial view of Brigham Young University.

BYU photo

This is part two of four in a series regarding BYU's potential inclusion in the Bowl Championship series and the Big 12 conference. Part one reviewed recent twitter conversation between Tom Holmoe and BYU sports fans. In this article, Ryan Teeples addresses the nature of the Big 12 Conference collective and issues relating to playing sports on Sunday.

Nature of a collective

Fans may over-simplify the issue of conference membership by assuming it’s "The Conference" or "The Commissioner" that should want but in this case doesn’t want BYU.

But the Big 12 Conference is a collective. It’s logically made up of 10 schools for now. It’s an egalitarian operation. Each school has an equal vote and equal share of conference efficacy, and the subsequent revenue derived from its activities (in this case, sporting events).

That means if you’re BYU, you don’t have to make the "conference" entity or the commisioner like you. You have to drive demand for your membership through the Athletic Directors, Presidents, Chancellors and whatever other titles are held by the top-dogs at each member school.

And in the case of the Big 12’s bylaws, you’d have to get 75% or more to want you. That means eight member schools. If just three don’t want you, you’re out, or in BYU's case, not in.

And that’s assuming the schools even want to grow the conference, which is an issue to be addressed later.

Sunday Play

This stands out like Gary Patterson in purple at a wedding. Everyone knows BYU will never, under any circumstance, play a game on Sunday, and they won’t join a conference that doesn’t accommodate observance of Sunday as a day of worship.

Sure, Baylor and TCU are religious institutions, and they don’t quibble over whether playing games on the Lord’s day is right or wrong. But BYU won’t do it. Nor should it apologize for not doing so.

Sunday may not be an issue to the Big 12 Conference as a collective. But it could be to some of the member schools who see BYU's firm stance as an inconvenience not worth the cost of acquisition.

More importantly, it could be an issue to TV partners who would whisper such concerns in the ears of member institutions. Sure, ESPN loves BYU, but that doesn’t mean that Fox, Comcast or whoever might be at the Big 12 TV negotiating table wouldn’t want a contract that offers Sabbath programming that’s not a devotional talk from the Marriott Center.

And, as we’ll discuss later, it’s an issue if the schools want to launch a conference network at some point.

TV money split

The $2.6 billion deal with ABC/ESPN and Fox gives each member school about $20 million a piece each year. You can’t fault the Big 12 for its math. Right now it’s sitting on a pot of gold TV contract it only has to split 10 ways.

If the conference were to grow, that means the pie would be split among those new members. Other conferences expanded into new markets before they got their TV contract, so they negotiated that new-member-market-value into the deals.

Sure, the Big 12 could go back to TV partners and try to renegotiate should it choose to add another school. But that school would have to deliver tens of millions of dollars in value annually through the TV market and a potential conference title game in football in order to make up the cost of sharing that proverbial crusted dessert. That’s a lot of filling to make up.

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