With the Pac-12 announcing Thursday it wouldn’t expand, Big 12 expansion talk might start to get taken more seriously with the remaining eight schools running out of ships to jump to.
The Big 12 is “seriously discussing” adding BYU, according to The Athletic’s Max Olson and Andy Staples. The Big 12 has put together an expansion subcommittee that, per multiple reports, is made up of Texas Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt, Baylor athletic director Mack Rhoades, Iowa State president Wendy Wintersteen and Kansas chancellor Douglas Girod.
A historically proud program, BYU has been a football independent since 2011, going 81-48 during that time. The program has produced the likes of Steve Young and Jim McMahon. The Cougars also have a 63,000-seat field in LaVell Edwards Stadium, named after a legendary BYU coach who went 257-101-3 at the school in 29 seasons.
But perhaps the most intriguing part of potentially adding the Cougars is their TV numbers. According to The Athletic, BYU was comparable to the median of the Big 12 (without OU and Texas) in TV viewership from 2015 and 2019. The Cougars’ thrown-together game against Coastal Carolina last season drew 1.212 million viewers on ESPNU, the fifth-largest audience in the channel’s history.
BYU isn’t totally conference independent, however. Its sports outside of football are members of the West Coast Conference, so that could be a potential hurdle. Another is the school’s affiliation with the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which excludes the Cougars from playing on Sundays, something that wouldn’t be an issue in football but could prove tricky in sports such as basketball, baseball and softball.
If recency bias plays any sort of role, the Cougars’ football team went 11-1 in 2020, clobbering UCF in the Boca Raton Bowl. BYU quarterback Zach Wilson was also taken second overall in the NFL Draft.
A major part of this will likely hinge on whether the Big 12 can get the remaining eight schools on a similar wave length. One school pursuing options outside of the Big 12 could be viewed as unstable ground and make it difficult for teams to want to jump onboard.
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