On Thursday morning we learned that BYU, UCF, Cincinnati and Houston — in some order — are the current frontrunners on the Big 12’s expansion list. Now, it seems, we’ve got a better idea of which order the league may prioritize them.
ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg on Thursday afternoon followed up that initial report from The Athletic by confirming that those four schools are indeed the leading candidates for the Big 12 if it opts to expand. He added that BYU is “at the top of the Big 12’s list,” and also reports that “Houston is No. 4.”
My guess is that UCF is No. 2 and Cincinnati is No. 3 but the order in this instance might be irrelevant. The more important point is that BYU looks to be the clear favorite to be the first call-up if the Big 12 expands (and if BYU is amenable to moving away from its Independent standing).
I wrote earlier this week that the Cougars could help the Big 12 stay afloat for myriad reasons, but among them is the eyeballs and competitiveness they’d bring to the Big 12. This from The Athletic in particular gets to the heart of the appeal of BYU.
Between 2015 and ‘19, the median audience Big 12 teams (minus games involving Texas and Oklahoma) drew for 36 games broadcast on ABC, Fox or ESPN was 1.786 million viewers. BYU’s numbers were comparable; the Cougars’ median audience in 16 games broadcast on those channels was 1.64 million. For 104 games broadcast on ESPN2, ESPNU, Fox Sports 1 or Fox Sports 2, the remaining Big 12 schools drew a median audience of 482,000. BYU* drew a median audience of 682,000 from 20 broadcasts on those networks.
Further, BYU is 81-48 since 2011 in football and is coming off an 11-1 football campaign.
The situation seems like it is certainly liable to change given how much things have shifted in the landscape just in the last month alone, but the Big 12 seemingly needs to expand, BYU could find real stability in the Big 12 and the combination of those things make them, on paper, an ideal marriage to join together for what seems like an uncertain future for both.
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