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Berry Tramel

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Big 12 expansion: More BYU perspective

by Berry Tramel Published: June 16, 2014
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David Moore is a Brigham Young fan who I have corresponded with over the years as conference realignment has percolated. After the latest proclamation — BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall basically politicked to join the Big 12 — Moore sent a dispatch that sheds more light on the BYU situation. I thought I would share it:

I’ve really enjoyed reading your columns on BYU this past week since Bronco opened his mouth to the Austin American Statesman and voiced his honest opinion.  Quite obviously this has had the blessing of AD Tom Holmoe and recently appointed President Kevin Worthen (succeeding Dr. Cecil Samuelson a month and a half ago).  Three years ago it could very easily had been BYU along with TCU, but sadly, some in BYU governance objected, which made league directors very uncomfortable with the idea of extending BYU a full blown invite. 

“What’s happened since is the second senior most apostle in the LDS Church, Boyd K. Packer, is now too ill with post-polio (he will turn 90 on Sept. 10), to be involved in day to day affairs with BYU.  Speculation was he more than anyone opposed the idea of BYU moving into the Big 12, since he has long disliked athletic programs at LDS Church-operated schools and further felt that with Utah already in the Pac-12, it would be especially unfair to his alma mater Utah State and would ‘detract from the mission of this state-run institution.’

“The Big 12 at 10 schools isn’t sustainable longterm and everyone agrees with your analysis this is just only resulting in short-term gains.  From purely a branding standpoint, any Big 12 AD will tell you a BYU-sized brand not already tied up by a GOR (grant of rights, tying a school to a conference) within the territory between West Virginia and the rest of the league would be a done deal” for the Big 12.

“The problem is Cincinnati, Central Florida and South Florida lack the stature of BYU, and the Cougars are now 800-900 miles the wrong direction from Tech & K-State.  Like the two mentioned Florida schools, Boise State is not even two decades removed from FCS and the Big Sky.

“The big problem BYU faces is they are out West now smack into the middle of the Pac-12 footprint.  Despite being a religiously owned and operated school, BYU clearly has the faculty and undergraduate student body that could if their Board of Trustees allowed to,” be desirable. “Many in the BYU community suspect change that direction is on the horizon.  Similarly by not being as proactive to go to 12 member institutions, the Big 12 has placed itself as the next Big East, the next league to be poached to death when Grant of Rights are set to expire in the mid-’20s.  The musical chairs will begin again.

“The question BYU fans have is will their program survive until then and still be the brand that emerged over the past 40-plus years or will it go the way of other programs like Rice or Tulane?”

Excellent perspective. I have no idea if Dave has his finger on the pulse of BYU, but it certainly seems plausible. And while everyone else wants the Big 12 to do this or that, or OU or OSU or any other school, to do something immediately, Dave’s point is well made. Forget now. We’re not all that far from 2026 and the ending of the Grant of Rights and the conclusion of the first contract of the College Football Playoff. The best minds are thinking ahead.

For clarification, I’ve never said the Big 12 is backwoods for not expanding to 12 schools. I do think the Big 12 missed the boat by not adding Louisville and getting to 11. If the Big 12 ever needs to get to 12 schools, it’s easier to get there from 11 than from 10, when the pickings are slim.

But Dave’s BYU background was invaluable to me as I try to understand what’s going on in Provo.

 

 

by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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