Better by the dozen: BYU’s last day of pre-Big 12 independence?
A pair of 10-year streaks could be coming to an end in the next two days: Utah’s dominance over BYU in the rivalry and BYU football’s independence from a conference.
Outside of the sporting world, a loss of independence carries a negative connotation. However, with an almost imminent announcement of BYU’s move to the Big 12 Conference this Friday, BYU football faces an exciting weekend.
On Wednesday evening, according to several sources, BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF penned their bids to the Big 12, making their applications to join the conference official. With a few spots open after the departure of Texas and Oklahoma and a rumored 14-team expansion in the coming years, all four teams are projected to be accepted this Friday when the official announcement is made by the Big 12.
BYU football’s independence from a conference, beginning in 2011, allowed for flexibility in scheduling during the ramifications of COVID-19, seeing the Cougars play a full season of football in 2020. BYU took a 43-26 win against Big 12 candidate Houston last October and a 49-23 win against another candidate, UCF, in December. The logistical advantages of conference independence make BYU’s transition to the Big 12 much easier than it will be for Houston, UCF and Cincinnati, who belong to the American Athletic Conference.
When asked about the timeline and implications of transitioning to the Big 12, Stewart Mandel of The Athletic told BYU Sports Nation that “the goal is 2023 but technically the AAC schools need to give 27 months notice, which would put that out of reach.”
“BYU, because they’re independent, has so many contracts for future games,” Mandel said. “Realistically, how quickly can they unwind that?”
In anticipation of potential athletic changes in the coming years, BYU football included clauses in its game contracts that allow them to withdraw from games with little to no ramifications. Other programs at BYU, such as basketball, have ties to the West Coast Conference and may not be as fortunate.
Senior writer at The Athletic Nicole Auerbach clarified on Twitter that, “BYU would need to give the WCC notice 24 months before the fiscal year in which withdrawal is effective to avoid payment. If notice is between 12-24 months, they pay $500k. If notice is less than 12 months, they pay $1 million.”
For the three other schools in the AAC, a 27-month notice period is required, along with a $10 million exit fee, according to national college football writer Matt Brown.
BYU’s basketball teams may gain the most from the potential move, as they leave the WCC where Gonzaga, BYU and Saint Mary’s were the only nationally relevant programs. The Big 12 Conference includes perennial powerhouses such as Baylor, Texas Tech, Kansas, Iowa State, Kansas State and Cincinnati.
BYU may have to pay its dues to the WCC, but it’s a small price to pay for the opportunity to expand its brand nationally. As the Big 12’s two biggest teams, Texas and Oklahoma, leave the conference, the conference is left with a large opportunity to rebrand, and BYU may just be the answer to that.
Commenting on this, Mandel said, “I think it’s the best possible outcome. These are the four schools I would’ve picked. (The) underrated aspect of all this, coming into 2023, is ‘Big 12 After Dark.’ BYU is gonna help get some of those Big 12 games in that 10 p.m. eastern window.”
As BYU is set to become the most western team geographically in the Big 12 conference, Mandel may be right. With BYU potentially helping gain additional television slots, advertising deals may just be the beginning of an increase in revenue for the Big 12.
Mandel commented further on Texas and Oklahoma leaving, saying, “I think it’s best that you hit reset and say, ‘this is our new conference and this is what we’re going to look like moving forward.’ Even though you’re losing your two big national brands.”