Sorry, BYU: Big 12 ADs say there's no interest in expansion

Bronco Mendenhall wont be happy with the response from two Big 12 ADs. (USATSI)
BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall won't be happy with the response from two Big 12 ADs. (USATSI)

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Bronco Mendenhall didn't mince words last week when discussing his BYU football program's interest in joining the Big 12.

"We would love to be in the Big 12," Mendenhall said. "I would love to be a member of that conference."

We have some bad news, Bronco: according to two Big 12 athletic directors, the league does not love the idea of issuing an invitation to the Cougars, or anyone.

"Expansion is one thing we're not talking about," West Virginia's Oliver Luck told ESPN Wednesday. "The conference schedule is absolutely great. Our tagline is 'one true champion.'"

But Luck's principal objection to adding another school has little to do with the Big 12's unique-to-the-Power 5 10-team, round-robin schedule. It's that he believes expansion would hurt his department finanically, telling ESPN that "I don't think we can find a partner who's available right now" that would increase or even maintain his school's $22 million annual payout, once the league's revenues are divided 12 ways rather than 10.

Kansas State AD John Currie echoed Luck's statements.

"We see how strong and productive our league is with 10 members," he said. "The camaraderie is really good."

The problem for BYU is that even if the Big 12 believes the Cougars might be worth bringing on board, they almost certainly can't come alone; financial concerns like Luck's will only be assuaged by going to 12 teams and reinstituting the league's championship game. But who else would the league invite? Boise State, whose only current nationally viable program -- the football team -- has declined from its Kellen Moore-led heyday and lost its coach? UCF, a school well outside the league footprint? Houston? SMU? 

There's no easy answer -- which is why BYU may have to contemplate its own difficult answers to the question of how they continue to make life as a non-Notre Dame independent work.

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