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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) 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).

Wide receiver Jaxon Shipley #8 of the Texas Longhorns hurdles defensive back Joe Sampson #5 of the BYU Cougars in the fourth quarter on September 10, 2011 at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin, Texas. Texas defeated BYU 17-16. (Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images) (Erich Schlegel, Getty Images) Wide receiver Jaxon Shipley #8 of the Texas Longhorns hurdles defensive back Joe Sampson #5 of the BYU Cougars in the fourth quarter on September 10, 2011 at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin, Texas. Texas defeated BYU 17-16. (Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images) (Erich Schlegel, Getty Images)

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.

Tom Holmoe is interviewed for a web cast at the start of BYU Football media in the BYU Broadcast Building on June 27, 2012 (Jaren Wilkey, BYU) Tom Holmoe is interviewed for a web cast at the start of BYU Football media in the BYU Broadcast Building on June 27, 2012 (Jaren Wilkey, BYU)

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.

T. Boone Pickens speaks regarding foreign oil dependence during a town hall meeting Sept 11, 2008 in Salt Lake City. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) T. Boone Pickens speaks regarding foreign oil dependence during a town hall meeting Sept 11, 2008 in Salt Lake City. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

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.

But all is not lost. BYU fans can hope that new rules from the BCS (which can be tweaked annually) require a participating conference to have a championship game, which is not outside the realm of possibility. Just wait until an Alabama team is left out of the national championship because they had to play against Georgia in Atlanta in early December while Oklahoma got in following two weeks of rest after Bedlam.

Additionally, another scenario is that TV partners could pressure the conference to stage a title game to create more CFB programming, which would require expansion.

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 three will address issues relating to BYU's high-definition international television network, BYUtv, and the potential concerns the Big-12 could have with its programming.

Ryan Teeples (twitter.com/SportsGuyUtah) is a respected marketing and technology expert, full-time sports fan and owner of Ryan Teeples Consulting, Inc. (RyanTeeples.com).

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