The Big 12 has made headlines — again — for considering expansion. BYU is among the schools that have been mentioned as strong suitors.
ESPN’s Big 12 guru Jake Trotter joined the Deseret News to break down BYU’s chances of joining the conference.
DN: Much ado has been made of the Big 12's possibility of expansion. Realistically, will the Big 12 add teams in the near future? If so, what is the timetable?
JT: Whether the Big 12 will is anyone’s guess at this point. We’ll have a better feel for that after the presidents congregate next week in Irving, Texas. Whatever direction the Big 12 pursues, we’re probably at least several weeks away from a vote. Maybe even months. There’s a chance the Big 12 leadership could reconvene before the end of the summer. But even Oklahoma President David Boren, the staunchest supporter for expansion, has conceded it might take the rest of this year before the Big 12 will be ready to vote.
DN: Many consider BYU to be the most attractive school available, should the conference decide to expand. What makes it a good fit for the Big 12?
JT: BYU has the best football tradition of any non-Power 5 program out there, with the exception of Notre Dame. Since 1980, only Nebraska, Florida State, Ohio State, Miami, Florida and Oklahoma have won more games than BYU, which obviously also captured the national title in 1984. The Cougars also have a strong following, both locally near Provo and around the country.
DN: Sunday play, geography and TV rights have all been highlighted as detractors to BYU's resume. How big of issues are these, and can they be overcome?
JT: They can all be overcome. The question is, will the Big 12 consider it worthwhile. The Big 12 would have to reconfigure its scheduling for several Olympic sports, notably women’s soccer, baseball and softball, to fit BYU’s policy of not playing on Sundays. BYU’s location offers another logistical challenge, as it’s almost 2,000 miles from Morgantown, West Virginia, to Provo, Utah. These are definitely issues for the Big 12. And why BYU might not be a lock as a candidate.
DN: It appears that a strong football program is (by far) the most important thing the conference is searching for. How important is a strong basketball program, or other athletic teams?
JT: Football is the driver in expansion. Strong basketball doesn’t hurt. But it won’t be the determining factor.
DN: BYU has a reputation for being "tough to deal with." How fair is this stereotype, and will it hold the Cougars back from an invitation?
JT: Yeah, I’m aware of the reputation, except I’ve yet to have anyone actually explain to me why BYU has that reputation. So I don’t put a lot of stock into it. BYU might have ruffled feathers during its first flirtation with the Big 12. But the Big 12 is doomed if it bases expansion decisions on which program it finds most low-maintenance.
DN: What are BYU's realistic chances to find themselves in a Power 5 conference within the next three years?
JT: Well, I think it’s probably Big 12 or bust for BYU. The Pac-12 has shown no interest in BYU, and the Big Ten will probably have other options if and when it opts to expand again. So if BYU doesn’t get into the Big 12 this time around, it could be left out of the Power 5 party for good.
Samuel Benson is a freelance journalist covering college athletics. Contact him on Twitter @sambbenson, or through email: [email protected]