BYU's honor code is again part of the ongoing conversation about Big 12 expansion since Athlete Ally, an LGBT advocacy group, sent a letter to the conference opposing the LDS Church-owned school's candidacy for membership.
How exactly it will affect BYU's chances has been the source of media speculation. As for the man who broke the story Monday, Fox Sports' Stewart Mandel isn't sure.
"There will undoubtedly be discussions about the issues raised if and when BYU’s candidacy comes up," Mandel wrote in a response to a reader's question. "But your guess is as good as mine as to how they’ll weigh those concerns — if at all — relative to the strengths of BYU’s football program and overall athletic department. The Big 12’s process has been so haphazard to this point that ultimately there’s almost no scenario that would surprise me ..."
But Chuck Carlton of the Dallas Morning News called it the "current front-burner issue."
"Suddenly, BYU's strong football tradition, national following and 63,000-capacity stadium may not be enough to secure Big 12 membership," Carlton writes.
Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman wrote that "timing is everything" and that "BYU’s philosophical stance on homosexuality and sexual behavior could be a big obstacle standing in its way of joining the Big 12 in light of the sexual assault scandal at Baylor. A current development could cripple or even kill those chances."
References to Baylor have been made in media coverage of BYU's candidacy. Bears head coach Art Briles was fired in May for failure "to take appropriate action to respond to reports of sexual assault and dating violence reportedly committed by football players," as reported by USA Today. BYU as a school is currently one of 200-plus colleges and universities under investigation by the Office of Civil Rights for its handling of sexual assault cases.
The school's honor code forbids students from sexual relationships outside of marriage and requires full fidelity within.
USA Today writer Scott Gleeson explored the issues and in the process interviewed the president of an off-campus LGBT group at BYU called Understanding Same Gender Attraction (USGA), Addison Jenkins. The group, Jenkins said, would "highly consider" defending BYU in its bid for joining the Big 12, but has taken a more neutral stance on the subject.
"I think (Big 12) commissioner (Bob) Bowlsby should welcome BYU as a full member of the Big 12 as long as BYU’s conduct meets conference standards," Jenkins said.
Gleeson also interviewed former TCU football player Vincent Pryor, who came out as gay publicly in 2011 and "wouldn't feel comfortable traveling to BYU" if he were still playing today.
BYU officials, however, addressed concerns about how visitors are treated. "LGBT players, coaches and fans are always welcome to the BYU campus," tweeted BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe on Tuesday. "Everyone should be treated with respect, dignity and love."
"As Tom Holmoe emphasized today," BYU spokeswoman Carri Jenkins said, "LGBT players, coaches and fans are always welcome to the BYU campus. Tom has told me that in the last 11 years he has been our athletic director, he has not heard of a time where someone has complained about participating in or attending an athletic event and being discriminated against for being a member of the LGBT community. This is as it should be. Everyone deserves and should be treated with respect and dignity on our campus."
But will expansion even happen? Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman talked about a much different angle in expansion: "What if the Big 12 wants not more members, but more money? What if the Big 12 saw the announcement of an ACC channel and voted the next day for expansion, not with the intent of adding schools but of scaring the networks into ponying up more money to the Big 12's 10 members?"
While talking about everything that has happened since the Big 12 announced it would explore expansion, he continues, "When Texas schools and Texas U. are flying the Houston flag, you know something is up. What might be up is a plan that gives the Texas schools relief from political pressure, with the faith that their partners to the north won't vote in UH. What might be happening is not an OU/Texas disagreement, but an OU/Texas conspiracy."