Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Wednesday, BYU officials released a statement condemning conference expansion "conjecture" involving the Cougars as a "distraction" its football program didn't need. We're going to humbly suggest, however, that the Cougars simply get used to it.
Because after this report from the Salt Lake Tribune, it's safe to say that conjecture is only getting started. According to the Tribune, BYU officials and representatives from the Big 12 have already met for discussions regarding "what conditions and assurances [BYU] would need to make the jump" to the soon-to-be Texas A&M-free conference.
Among those "conditions" would be how the Big 12 might coexist with BYU's existing television network, BYUtv, not to mention the rest of BYU's athletics programs; currently, the Cougars are scheduled to join the West Coast Conference in sports other than football beginning with the 2011-2012 athletics season. The Tribune reported that "some of the discussions involve the possibility of BYU joining the Big 12 for football only."
Also reportedly offering "input" to the talks? Representatives from Notre Dame, BYU's "partner" in independence who have an six-year football series scheduled with the Cougars. ESPN's football contract with BYU was also a point of discussion.
All of this makes yesterday's statement seem even more misleading. Before, its omission of any actual denials regarding the Cougars' conference affiliation might have simply been an oversight. But now, it's obvious those omissions were intentional; the rumors linking BYU to the Big 12 have legs, and thickly-built legs at that.
It's still too soon to say BYU-to-the-Big 12 is a done deal, or even likely; with rumors also abundant that a bundle of Pac-12 invitations will have the Big 12 dissolved by Halloween, BYU may not wind up with anywhere to make the jump to. But as far as the Big 12's survival goes, sitting down at the table with a name-brand program like BYU isn't a bad first step at all.