On Friday morning, Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman reported that the Texas-Oklahoma departure from the Big 12 to the SEC "could become official in a week." Later, multiple outlets reported that both Texas and Oklahoma were expected to leave the Big 12. As Texas and Oklahoma leave for greener pastures, what will happen to the rest of the Big 12?
As Ross Dellenger wrote in his column yesterday, "The move from Texas and Oklahoma is expected to spark a sweeping, nationwide realignment wave, one that could end in two ways: (1) the complete dismantling of the Big 12 conference and founding of four superconferences, each with as many as 16 teams; or (2) a rebuilt Big 12 with two to four new members that have been pillaged, in all likelihood, from the American Athletic Conference. Do Big 12 teams become the hunter (Option 2) or the hunted (Option 1)?"
BYU will be in the center of expansion conversations
If the Big 12 tries to survive and expand, BYU would be in the center of those expansion conversations. Nearly every national outlet brings up BYU when discussing Big 12 expansion. Yesterday, ESPN wrote "SMU would be interested in rejoining its old SWC mates. The Big 12 has kicked the tires on a number of possible additions, like BYU, in recent years. There are also cases to be made for Memphis, Cincinnati or UCF."
Pat Forde reported that "there are other options among schools the Big 12 haughtily invited to apply and then rejected several years ago when it toyed with expansion: BYU, Boise State, Colorado State, SMU, Houston, UCF, USF, Cincinnati and Memphis would be the top candidates.
Yahoo! Sports' Pete Thamel wrote "that we should expect the Big 12 to "be aggressive in adding schools," should the Longhorns and Sooners be on the way out. And who gets a call depends on how big the conference wants to get. Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado, Utah, Cincinnati, UCF, USF, BYU and Boise State were all mentioned in his afternoon update, with a note that Houston and SMU could be attractive candidates though Baylor and Texas Tech might oppose more in-state competition."
Does the Big 12 want BYU?
Remember, it's not a foregone conclusion that the Big 12 would want to invite BYU. They have rejected BYU in the past, and they could decide to expand East and invite schools like UCF, Memphis, Houston or Cincinnati. There are many scenarios where the Big 12 could expand without BYU. And even if the Big 12 wanted BYU, there would be some hurdles that BYU would have to overcome prior to joining the Big 12.
Does BYU want the Big 12?
For our purposes, let's assume that the Big 12 wants BYU. Accepting an invitation to an eroded Big 12 is not a slam dunk for BYU who has arrived at the scheduling prime of independence. There would undoubtedly be pros to joining the Big 12 like competing for a conference championship. There would also be cons for BYU like the geographic fit and losing its independence.
If you were Tom Holmoe, what conditions would need to be met before accepting an invitation to the Big 12? Outside of the obvious ones like no Sunday play, here are mine.
1. The remaining eight schools must remain in the Big 12
If Texas and Oklahoma leave the Big 12 for the SEC, the Big 12 would be left with only eight members:
- Iowa State
- Kansas State
- Oklahoma State
- Texas Tech
- West Virginia
The first condition would need to be an agreement amongst the remaining eight schools that they will stay with the Big 12. The PAC-12 or the ACC might try to poach some of the abandoned schools. If that happens, the Big 12 could dissolve in a matter of weeks.
2. The money must be substantially better than independence
This one is obvious. If BYU is going to make a move to the Big 12, the money must be materially better. As Ross Dellenger wrote on Twitter, "leaders fear they'll (the Big 12) lose P5 autonomy & their TV deal will plummet."
Without its two most profitable programs, TV outlets will not be as willing pay the Big 12 in their upcoming TV deal. If the money is not better for BYU, a Big 12 invitation would be immediately declined.
3. The Big 12 must improve BYU's postseason arrangements
One of the downsides to independence for BYU has been the postseason bowl arrangements. In most years, BYU knows their bowl destination before the season even starts. As things currently stand, the Big 12 has seven different bowl agreements. If the Big 12 is able to maintain its bowl agreements, an invite to the Big 12 becomes more enticing for BYU. Below are the Big 12's existing bowl agreements.
1. New Year's Six Bowl
2. Alamo Bowl vs PAC-12
3. Camping World Bowl vs ACC
4. Texas Bowl vs SEC
5. Liberty Bowl vs SEC
6. Cheez-It Bowl vs Big Ten
7. Armed Forces Bowl vs G5
The biggest problem? The NY6 format might change with the expansion of the College Football Playoff. In addition, the bowl season might become irrelevant with the expansion of the playoff. Texas' and Oklahoma's decision has the potential to send irreparable shockwaves across the college football landscape.
4. The path to the College Football Playoff must be better
If the college football world is moving to a playoff-or-bust format, the path to a CFP invite would need to be better for BYU in the Big 12.
5. The Big 12 must improve BYU's national relevance
This one is the kicker.
Even if the first four conditions are met, BYU should be careful before joining the Big 12. That might sound like a throwback to 2010, but this round of realignment feels different than the last round. It has the potential to completely uproot college football as we know it. With all the uncertainty surrounding the future of college football, independence provides BYU with very valuable flexibility that it might need down the road.
Remember, college football relevance today look very different from college football relevance tomorrow. If the Big 12 can't directly improve BYU's relevance in the future, the invitation should be declined.
This, of course, includes some grey area. What does relevance look like for BYU? Is it competing for national championships? No, very few programs in the country are truly competing for a national championship on a regular basis. However, having (at minimum) a clearer path to the College Football Playoff would be a major step in the right direction for BYU.
Time will tell whether the Big 12 wants BYU, and whether BYU wants the Big 12.