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Dick Harmon: Big 12 not looking to expand, but BYU's a candidate in waiting

Published: Saturday, July 19 2014 5:00 p.m. MDT

"So I'd say BYU should hold tight, keep its athletic program strong and see what develops. The landscape could, and probably will, change in the next few years. BYU is definitely on the radar.”

Jimmie Tramel believes the Big 12 will only add other members if newcomers add value to the inventory for things like TV coverage.

“If you enlist a new member which does not bring added value, you're just splitting the same old pie among more mouths. And that's not going to go over well in the selfish money-trumps-everything world that college football has become.

“But there is no question in my mind that BYU is on the short list of schools (Louisville would be another) which would absolutely bring added value to the Big 12. BYU is a school with a national following, like Notre Dame, and name brand recognition. Why not BYU? This reminds me of when you hear about an attractive gal who spends weekends alone because boys are too intimidated to ask her out. A major conference needs to ask BYU to the prom.”

From his perch in Tulsa, having covered BYU in Provo many times, Jimmie Tramel knows BYU is used to being the alpha dog of the WAC and MWC. Big 12 inclusion would take that away.

“The Big 12 already has an alpha dog in Texas (Big 12 defectors chose to go to other kennels) and another alpha dog in Oklahoma. Alpha dogs are used to getting their way. When push comes to shove, could BYU be comfortable or problematic in a role other than being the alpha dog of a conference? If BYU wielded the most clout in other neighborhoods, will the Cougars accept wielding lesser clout in a different neighborhood?”

A big part of BYU’s venture into independence was added exposure and the freedom to use its TV rights to partner with ESPN for another four years.

BYU’s ESPN partnership, which extends to 2018, has exclusive broadcast rights for games on ABC, ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU. In the past three seasons, BYU played 30 of its 39 football games and 34 men’s basketball games on ABC/ESPN.

BYU ranks 15th with 24 games on the major national TV channels (ESPN, ESPN2, ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox) over the past three seasons. The 14 ahead of BYU in order are Notre Dame, LSU, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Alabama, Clemson, Florida State, South Carolina, Stanford, Michigan, Nebraska, Florida, Georgia and Texas.

In the Big 12, the Longhorn Network caused some issues with departing Missouri (SEC), Nebraska (Big Ten) and other members. But it is a Big 12 asset if not a gem for the Texas program that boasts the largest athletic budget in the NCAA.

But in BYUtv, with its different digital and Internet platforms and distribution on both major satellite companies and most cable outlets, BYU may have both a technological and numbers edge over Texas, and that could parlay into an attraction for the Big 12. An example is the WCC utilizing BYUtv to broadcast programming including postseason basketball tournament action.

BYUtv is available on Dish, DirecTV and more than 600 cable stations in North America. It currently reaches 56 million homes. It is also available in South America and other countries around the globe. BYUtv currently broadcasts approximately 90 live BYU athletic competitions each year (football, basketball, soccer, volleyball, baseball, softball and gymnastics).

BYU Radio reaches approximately 20 million subscribers on SiriusXM (24/7 Internet streaming) and broadcasts more than 100 live events each year (football, basketball, soccer, volleyball, baseball, softball).

If the Big 12 tapped into BYU’s broadcasting abilities, within the umbrella of existing or renegotiated rights, it would definitely be an asset no other expansion candidate, including Louisville, UConn, Cincinnati or Central Florida, could bring to the party.

BYU’s athletic programs have an average ranking of 28 in the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics’ comprehensive account of athletic program success with 30 top finishes, 11 in 19 seasons.

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