BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall says his team would be a perfect fit for the Big 12. But does the Big 12 think BYU is a perfect fit for it?
Mendenhall told the Austin American-Statesman Thursday that the school would "love" to be 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.”
Strong words, but the American-Statesman cited two sources saying any Big 12 inclusion of BYU wouldn't be likely.
After becoming an independent in 2011 and signing a TV contract with ESPN for the goal of more national exposure, why would BYU suddenly be talking about joining a conference again? Well, the school's independent status has become a bit of an albatross. In the ACC and SEC mandating a game against a "Power 5" school on member teams' future schedules, BYU does not fall into the "Power 5" category while fellow independent Notre Dame does.
That means the school would be in the same category as schools that ACC and SEC schools would pay to play at home. BYU does not want to be in the category, and can limit BYU's future schedule. While the school recently signed a home-and-home deal with UCLA to begin in the 2015 season, the mandate makes filling a 12-game schedule harder.
“We have a chip on our shoulder,” Mendenhall told the American-Statesman. “I could have given you that instead of the longer answer. I’m just wondering who fights for us as an independent?
“Between myself and my basketball coaches, there’s no two featured programs that have won more games,” Mendenhall continued. “Our attendance is high enough. And our winning percentage is high enough.
“We have the entire Salt Lake City and Utah market as well as a worldwide following because of the church. There’d be a ton to offer the Big 12, because it’s a money-generated world right now. You’re talking about an amazing kind of brand.”
If the Big 12 had any interest in BYU, the Cougars would have been a natural fit after Colorado's departure to the Pac-12 even if Utah is one state to the west of Colorado. But while the move was rumored, it never happened, and the Cougars bolted the Mountain West for football independence.
Now, a fairly-centralized conference with West Virginia to the extreme east and BYU to the west would mean two long trips for the nine schools in the middle of the country. Travel difficulties aside, If the Big 12 added BYU, it'd likely want a 12 team to add a football championship game and make two six-team divisions instead of having an 11-team conference without a full round-robin setup.
Plus, the Big 12 recently said at its spring meetings that the conference was content with 10. The conference realignment wheel looks like it's currently stopped, and BYU's options don't look as appealing as they once did.
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