PROVO — The Big 12 drama unfolding almost hourly has caught BYU squarely in the crosshairs of a potential expansion debate.
Are the Cougars to be invited to join the Big 12 in a move to stabilize the BCS conference? Is BYU really, really interested if the call comes? Can the Big 12 actually achieve stability in wake of a tumultuous year in which Nebraska, Colorado and Texas A&M ceded membership for other conferences and threats of legal action have overshadowed survivors?
BYU isn't saying. The Big 12 isn't saying either, at least not on the record.
But plenty of others are talking for them through "sources." BYU is allowing the discussion to transverse in silence. When asked, BYU officials have declined to comment.
According to Chip Brown of Orangebloods.com, BYU isn't eagerly rushing in to sell itself to the Big 12 and now expansion targets have turned to Big East-bound TCU.
This comes after two days of speculation by CBS Sports, ESPN, SI.com and many other college news outlets that BYU is the prime target of the Big 12 if things settle down and a decision is made to expand.
"While BYU has been the popular thought as a replacement for Texas A&M, a key source close to the situation says BYU may no longer be interested in
joining the Big 12 because of the recent instability," wrote Brown on Thursday.
"While BYU seemed very interested in the possibility of joining the Big 12 a month ago, a key source close to the situation said that was before all the rancor erupted involving Oklahoma, the Big 12 and OU's attempt to land in the Pac-12."
Continued Brown, "BYU would stand to grow exponentially financially with a move to the Big 12 because the Cougars made less than $2 million in TV revenue last year and would stand to make $18 million in the Big 12 next year.
"But BYU is not hung up on money," Brown's source said.
Brown was the main voice of expansion rumors on the Internet in the summer of 2010 when Texas and Oklahoma were rumored to be headed to the Pac 12. He reported it was close to becoming reality. That never happened.
There is much criticism of Brown amongst many observers of expansion rumors and news. Many believe the administration at Texas uses him by leaking information they want out to put public pressure on targets like Oklahoma, Texas A&M, the Big 12 leadership including all league presidents.
Another "expansion expert" Jon Wilner said in his San Jose Mercury News blog, the recent "Texas to the Pac 12" media furor was only manipulation by Oklahoma and others last week to get concessions from Texas in league TV revenue sharing.
Who is one to believe? BYU isn't helping, refusing to make a statement to the media, choosing to see Big 12 politics work itself out for the present.
"It changes almost every day if not every hour," said one BYU official.
If BYU declines an offer to join a BCS conference like the Big 12, that would alienate if not anger many Cougar fans, who watched chief rival Utah join the Pac12.
"I personally think if BYU is invited and doesn't take it, it is athletic suicide," said lifelong BYU fan Sid Sperry, 56, of Provo. Sperry echoes sentiment from many BYU fans who weighed in on the topic Thursday through the Internet message boards and radio talk shows.
"It is saying to recruits that BYU doesn't want to compete on the highest level," said Sperry.
"I think you will see BYU fans boycott the WCC including basketball games. I think you will see BYU lose fans. I don't care if BYU can compete or not, BYU fans want to see Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. We don't want to be relegated to second fiddle, that is not what we have invested in. It makes it seem like BYU has put its tail between its legs and run for cover. I think I speak for many fans. You'll see LaVell Edwards Stadium with empty seats in protest. It would be a sad deal."
Sperry said he doesn't believe BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe or university president Cecil Samuelson would do that. "They are smart and I think they will make the right decision."
"But it they don't, woe be unto BYU. It would be like the children of Israel being in the wilderness for 40 years and being told they could go into the Land of Milk and Honey, and then having Moses come down and say no, you are going to stay in the briars and thistles."
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