BYU found out Monday that it will not receive an invite to the Big 12 as the conference decided against expansion. While this isn't the news Cougar fans were hoping for, it is not the end of the world for BYU athletics.
So, what now?
Let's not sugarcoat this: BYU is not getting into the Big 12 probably ever. The chances of BYU ever getting into a power conference are practically nil. This isn't the first time the Big 12 has passed on BYU, after all. The Pac-12 won't invite the Cougars, and neither will the Big Ten, ACC or SEC.
And yet, life will go on for the Cougars.
Right now, BYU has about three options. None of them are as good as being part of a power conference, but they also aren't apocalyptic.
First, BYU can remain independent and continue to schedule as it has been doing. Frankly, this year's schedule is pretty solid, and so is next year's. Yes, the Cougars won't have the same access to New Years Six bowls as they would in a Group of 5 conference, but they'll make more money and get better games.
And frankly, it's not like BYU has been close to getting to an NY6 bowl in recent history.
Plus, it puts BYU in good position if the Big 12 can't hold together and teams like Texas and Oklahoma bolt sometime between now and the end of the Big 12's grant of rights agreement in 2024. The Cougars could be a part of a solid conference made up of Mountain West, American and former Big 12 teams. Probably not a power conference, granted, but a better one than the Mountain West or American.
Second, BYU can remain independent and get a scheduling agreement with a conference like Notre Dame. This could work as plenty of Power 5 teams have made agreements with BYU as an independent. Including this season, BYU has 39 games with Power 5 teams scheduled between this year and 2027, and that does not include games contracted with Notre Dame. In fact, most Power 5 conferences count BYU as a Power 5 opponent for scheduling rules.
It seems that BYU can schedule Power 5 teams just fine. Why not try for a scheduling agreement? It would be even better if BYU can get a bowl agreement as part of the deal. It also keeps BYU in good position if the Big 12 explodes, as noted above.
A scheduling agreement with the American would also be a good thing for the Cougars. The American has helped BYU out in the past with good games against solid teams. There's no reason to think that the Cougars and the American can't help each other out moving forward, particularly as Houston, Cincinnati and quite a few other American teams also got left out of the Big 12.
Third, BYU can join a Group of 5 conference like the Mountain West or the American. BYU would likely have to take a pay cut and would lose a lot of fantastic games on future schedules. Also, BYU would likely have to sign a grant of rights agreement that would make things difficult should the Big 12 explode and a new conference be formed. The trade-off would be a chance for a conference title and potentially an NY6 bowl.
I just don't see how the pros outweigh the cons on this one. That means independence is BYU's best bet moving forward. BYU should join a conference at some point, but there doesn't seem to be a compelling reason why the Cougars should join a Group of 5 right this moment.
That doesn't mean that BYU won't eventually end up in a Group of 5, but there's no reason for the Cougars to make that move anytime soon.
So, while the news that BYU won't get a coveted golden ticket to a Power 5 conference probably ever, the sky remains firmly in place above our heads. There are ways that BYU can move forward and even thrive.
At the very least, the cloud of uncertainty about BYU and the Big 12 seems to be gone forever. That's something worth celebrating.
Lafe Peavler is a sports strategist for the Deseret News and KSL.com. Follow him on Twitter @LafePeavler.