SALT LAKE CITY — Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby and board of directors Chairman David Boren have not tried to disguise their interest in expansion. Tuesday they announced that the conference will look into growing by two or four members.
Isn’t this where we came in?
Familiar as that sounds, for BYU fans, there was little chance of a better outcome.
They’ll take it.
No hurry, guys. We’ll be right over here.
There are few news outlets that don’t consider BYU a top-two choice to be added. In the likelihood the conference does expand, the scariest thing for BYU is whether any power conference teams are interested in jumping. Boren wouldn’t say whether that was the case but admitted, “The Big 12 has not sought out other schools; other schools have sought out us, so it’s a good position to be in. They’re coming to us.”
So it’s back to business for both the conference and BYU. The Big 12 has made its research formal, and BYU will do more nail-biting. Meanwhile, the best thing the Cougars can do is kick down the doors.
Just like you-know-who did.
The Utes had themselves in position in 2010, got some luck, and made it an easy choice for the Pac-12. For BYU, dominating the schedule would make a Big 12 decision easier. Failing miserably in 2016 allows other schools to make their case, even if they trail BYU in other areas.
Boren noted winning isn’t the only component. Market size, facilities, broadcast possibilities and academic standing all figure in. But lose big and the whole thing starts looking as phony as an online dating profile.
Bowlsby said it’s “conceivable” candidates could named by September. Don’t plan on it. This isn’t a conference know for its swiftness. Either way, the Cougars need to make their case on the field and then drop the mic.
It’s not as though the Big 12 is unaware of BYU’s appeal. The Cougars have defeated numerous power conference teams over the years, including Oklahoma and Texas. If the conference wants history, the Cougars have it. What BYU doesn’t have is a killer season lately. It hasn’t won 10 games since 2011.
While Bowlsby and the board are contemplating, the Cougars can make the decision easy. Athlon ranks BYU’s 2016 schedule the 15th toughest in the country. CBS Sports ranks it No. 4. Opponents include UCLA, Arizona, Utah, Mississippi State, Michigan State and West Virginia. Not to be overlooked are two schools with designs the same as BYU: Boise State and Cincinnati.
In 2009, Utah went 10-3, a year after winning the Sugar Bowl and going 13-0. From 2004 through 2009, the Utes won two BCS bowls and went 13-4 against schools that were in power conferences. They were 6-0 in bowl games.
BYU is 9-14 vs. power conference teams in the last five years.
So doing well this season isn’t an option — it’s a charge. To its credit, BYU didn’t wait; it got the best schedule a non-P5 can buy. No mid-major schedule comes close. Cincinnati has just one P5 opponent on its calendar, while Houston, Colorado State and Boise State (remember it?) have two apiece. Each has a conference schedule to maintain.
BYU can play Hannibal and his mercenaries if it wants.
Bowlsby said the research could include campus visits. Most likely those will just confirm what is already known. The Big 12 is aware of BYU’s television network, the online potential and its widespread fan base. The eye-opener won’t be the indoor practice facility, the renovated Marriott Center, the shiny baseball stadium, the 64,000-seat football stadium or the trophies in Legacy Hall.
As old-fashioned as it sounds, dominating on the field is still a great way to impress. Fan base, history, Sunday play, etc. have been hashed out for years. What hasn’t been answered is how BYU would do with a power conference schedule.
Now it has one.
This time, the audition won’t be just figurative.
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