“Waiting is painful. Forgetting is painful. But not knowing which to do is the worst kind of suffering.” — Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho.
What does he know about waiting and suffering? He’s never been a BYU fan.
Yet somehow he understands.
It has been six years since the big upheaval, when conferences started disintegrating, expanding and morphing. Yet here the Cougars are, waiting for an invitation to join a power conference. But they haven’t just been sitting. They’ve been selling. Boy, have they been selling. Their publicity machine has been working overtime, ever since the revolution happened and Utah and TCU left the Mountain West.
Nowadays, as in 2010, the Cougars have a good argument why they deserve power conference inclusion. And they have lots of numbers on their side — fan base, stadium size, TV ratings, etc.
But after this much time, I believe the Big 12 isn’t going to vote to expand when presidents meet next week. Which would mean more of the worst kind of suffering for BYU, i.e. wondering whether to keep hope alive, forge ahead in independence, or contact the Mountain West.
Given recent comments by one Big 12 insider, it seems likely there’s more hand wringing in store for BYU. Oklahoma President David Boren is the Cougars’ new best friend, having said it was imperative that the Big 12 expand. This was great news for BYU, knowing Oklahoma is the second-most influential school in the conference.
But on May 12, after an OU Board of Regents meeting, Boren admitted the conference presidents were in the “fact-finding” stage, not “decision-making” mode.
"We're not ready to make any of these decisions yet without more data,” he told reporters.
Say what? It's been six years since Colorado and Nebraska announced they were leaving the Big 12, five since Missouri and Texas A&M started spreadin’ the news. Yet the presidents want more time? What are they waiting for, a return of Halley’s Comet?
With that in mind, I suspect the presidents will do what everyone does when they’re unsure. They’ll table it. Again.
Everyone in and out of the Big 12 knows the pros and cons on expansion. They also know BYU is the leader in legacy, facilities and operations.
Conference officials have absorbed the studies that say the league stands a better chance of making the playoffs by adding two teams.
At the same time, the league is still looking into whether to form a conference network, and what the returns might be. Would adding teams be worth it to the 10 existing schools, or would it be like having their checks garnished?
The best argument for adding teams, though, isn’t national playoff ramifications, or even TV money, but survival of the league. With 10 teams, the Big 12 is vulnerable to attacks from the flank. But numerous reports say Texas is against expansion and that TCU and Texas Tech will go along with whatever the Longhorns do.
That alone would kill BYU’s hopes. Again.
Considering all the decision-makers in the Big 12 have access to maps, stats, studies and scores, I can’t imagine what they’re waiting to discover. But they didn’t rush when teams were jumping off ship, left and right, a few years ago. There’s less pressure now.
The conference’s pattern has gone like this: 2010: Nasty rumors about Texas, Oklahoma and Texas A&M leaving for the Pac-12 arise. Better keep an eye out. 2011-12: Nebraska and Colorado bolt, Texas A&M and Missouri soon follow. But the Big 12 picks up West Virginia and TCU, avoiding collapse. 2013: Interesting concept, expansion. They’ll look into it. 2014: Nothing now, but they’re not closing the door on growth. 2015: They’ll sleep on it. 2016: The NCAA says the Big 12 can have a title game with just 10 teams. Conference meetings in February yield no changes. They want more time to gather facts.
Prediction for next week: Give them a minute! They’re thinking!
Big 12 to BYU: Can we get you a Coke or something while you wait?
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