As college football fans wait for the beginning of the 2014 season, there's one thing that's kept many BYU fans captivated over the long offseason: Conference realignment rumors.
There are a lot of myths that have been floating around Twitter and on message boards all over the Internet. Some are true, but most are absolute junk. A lot of people have claimed some interesting things without anything at all to back them up.
We're going to bust some of those myths using documented quotes from named, credible sources at BYU and around other conferences. No unnamed sources from West Virginia need apply.
Here's some of the most prevalent rumors surrounding BYU and conference realignment:
Lafe Peavler is a staff sports writer for the Deseret News. Follow him on Twitter @LafePeavler.
This one is obvious now, but there was a time where some BYU fans claimed that members of the BYU administration and board of directors wanted BYU to stay independent no matter what conference came knocking.
Bronco Mendenhall's comments to the Austin American-Statesman showed that yes, BYU wants in the Big 12.
“We would love to be in the Big 12,” Mendenhall said. “I would love to be a member of that conference. I think that would make a lot of sense. In fact, if that was your headline, that would be great.”
This was clearly a carefully orchestrated move on Mendenhall's part, and there's no doubt BYU administration is behind what Mendenhall said or he wouldn't have said it. Case closed.
This is a popular myth that's circulated on BYU message boards for years now. The narrative runs that the Cougars were given a coveted invitation to the Big 12 back when Texas A&M and Missouri left that conference for the SEC. BYU supposedly turned down the offer over BYUtv rights. That's why the Big 12 invited TCU and West Virginia instead.
BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe took to Twitter to debunk this myth.
A BYU fan using the Twitter handle @jmgcougman tweeted this at Holmoe in May of this year: "Latest Big 12 rumor: Y snubbed in '10 & '11 due to demands that @byutv get occasional 2nd Tier rights & multiple game guarantee. @TomHolmoe."
Holmoe responded: "@jmgcougman @byutv Not true at all. Quit spreading rumors!"
That statement should kill that rumor once and for all. It didn't happen.
This is a myth that circulated on Twitter for much of the spring and early summer, perpetuated by a West Virginia fan using the handle @MHver3. This person claimed to have knowledge of secret Big 12 expansion meetings where a representative of BYU was present.
Well, West Virginia's own athletic director busted this one.
ESPN's Brett McMurphy talked to both West Virginia's Oliver Luck and Kansas State athletic director John Currie about BYU: "Expansion is one thing we're not talking about," Luck told McMurphy.
Let this be a lesson to anyone about Twitter rumors: If a person on Twitter posts things without using his name and his/her information depends on unnamed sources, ignore it.
McMurphy's chat with Luck and Currie also busts this myth. The Big 12 isn't talking about expansion right now, and it isn't going to start talking about it until after the NCAA makes some important decisions.
First, the ACC has submitted legislation to the NCAA that would remove rules requiring conferences to have 12 teams in order to have a conference championship game. This affects the Big 12 as it has only 10 members.
While there's no indication that the Big 12 would add a conference championship game with just 10 members, this decision will certainly factor in to any decision to expand or not. There's less incentive for the conference to add teams if it can have a conference championship game while standing pat.
The NCAA will take up this issue this August.
Also, there's the bigger proposal of giving autonomy to the so-called "Power 5" conferences.
The Big 12 isn't going to make any sort of move until these issues are settled, and why should it? While it's certainly possible that the Big 12 will expand at some point, Big 12 expansion isn't as imminent as some have claimed.
This has been a popular one recently. SI.com's Stewart Mandel added fuel to this rumor responding to a question from a BYU fan in a mailbag article. In short, Mandel points out that BYU doesn't have the same kind of access as an independent that the MWC champ does to a big-time bowl. He also refers to recent scheduling rules from the the ACC and SEC that don't count BYU as a "Power 5" opponent.
While Mandel doesn't outright say it, his words imply that BYU would be better off in the MWC. He's hardly alone as many others from both inside and outside of the BYU fan base have expressed the same thought.
Well, there's no better person outside of the BYU administration to address this rumor than the Voice of the Cougars himself: KSL's Greg Wrubell.
Here's two key tweets from Wrubell on this very subject. First: "Certain observers are missing the mark on two particular points, re: BYU football. 1) Scheduling is not the issue. 2) MWC is not an option."
And the second: "Those arguing for MWC return require more insight re: BYU history, current assets and future intentions. There's no going back."
Short of getting a statement straight from BYU's athletic director, this is as definitive as it gets.
If BYU has to join a conference outside of the "Power 5," it will probably be the American Athletic.
After all, BYU already has a "quasi-alliance" with that conference, as conference commissioner Mike Aresco told USA Today. This conference is certainly more friendly toward the Cougars than the MWC, particularly after conference commissioner Craig Thompson went out of his way to take a shot at BYU.
Yes, geographically this doesn't make much sense as the closest member school to BYU is Tulsa and the conference has teams as far away as Connecticut and South Florida. That said, BYU would probably try to bring a program such as Boise State along as a travel partner.
It's doubtful that BYU would bring all of its sports to the American because of the travel costs. Therefore, BYU would probably join as a football-only member.
If BYU is forced to join a conference outside of the "Power 5," the American is BYU's most likely landing place.
Barring an absolute upheaval in the college football landscape, it's not going to happen. Simply put, if the Pac-12 wanted to add BYU, the Cougars would already be in that conference.
Yes, the Pac-12 would be the conference that would make the most sense from both competitive and geographical points of view, and BYU does play a lot of Pac-12 teams. The Cougars have 20 games scheduled against eight different Pac-12 teams between now and 2025, and there's going to be more coming.
But it's extremely unlikely that BYU will ever be a member of the Pac-12.
Two factors preclude BYU from ever joining the Pac-12: First is the issue of Sunday play. That's an absolute deal-breaker for BYU.
Also, the Pac-12 is made up of research institutions. While BYU's undergraduate programs are on par with the schools in the Pac-12, they simply don't have the same kind of graduate research programs and resources that the Pac-12 schools have.
The one and only semi-plausible scenario where BYU goes to the Pac-12 is if power conferences become superconferences and the Pac-12 isn't able to take Texas and Oklahoma teams to move to 16.
While no one knows if BYU will still be independent even five years down the road, this myth is becoming more plausible as time goes on.
Leaving the Mountain West Conference and going independent was the right decision. BYU is better off in almost every way with the lone exception of access to a "New Year's" bowl. BYU makes more money, is on national TV more often, and plays better schedules than it would be able to do if it had stayed in the Mountain West.
But the college football landscape is rapidly changing in ways that no one could have predicted in 2010. While BYU seems to be fine for the time being, Mendenhall's comments are the first major proof that BYU is looking at leaving independence behind.
This myth is impossible to confirm or bust. It seems that BYU is both making the best of independence as well as trying to secure itself in a better position.
Not so fast, Chicken Little. The sky isn't falling just yet.
First off, BYU is starting to get aggressive about joining a power conference. Mendenhall's comments to the Austin American-Statesman is a clear sign of that. While some may call this move desperation, it's a proactive move on BYU's part.
Frankly, it's about time the Cougars started to campaign.
Jeremy Fowler at CBSSports.com recently gave some friendly advice to BYU. In brief, his five bits of advice were to send holiday cards, have a monster year or two, be a team player, set up some killer football schedules and play to your strengths.
The best thing that BYU can do to help its cause is to win games. While an 8-5 season certainly isn't bad, the Cougars need to assert that they are a team that can't be ignored. BYU hasn't finished ranked in the AP Top 25 since it went independent, and that has to change this year.
Losses to teams like Virginia in 2013 are simply unacceptable with BYU's current situation. On the other hand, a win at Texas would help BYU's case tremendously.
Also, BYU fans can help their team's cause by filling LaVell Edwards Stadium every single home game, traveling well to all of the Cougars' road games and watching as much BYU football on TV as possible. Conferences such as the Big 12 will include BYU if the conference can make more money.
Should BYU fans be concerned? Absolutely. But is BYU football doomed as the college football landscape changes?