BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe addresses the media following the Big 12 announcement, with BYU president Kevin J Worthen to his right. (Dallin Wilks)

BYU accepts invitation to Big 12, will begin competition in 2023

BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe and university president Kevin J Worthen announced Friday that BYU accepted an invitation to join the Big 12 Conference and will begin competition in all sports in the 2023-24 season.

“This is a historic day for BYU Athletics – and for the entire university,” President Worthen said in a press release. “The BYU mission statement indicates that BYU is a place where ‘a commitment to excellence is expected.’ We strive to meet that requirement in all we do, including our core academic enterprise. Membership in the Big 12 gives us the opportunity to reinforce that commitment for student-athletes, allowing them to compete at the highest level both on and off the field.”

The move was first reported last week, and confirmed by multiple sources in recent days. A press conference was held on Friday morning to make the official announcement and featured President Worthen, Holmoe, commissioner of the Big 12 Conference Bob Bowlsby and Big 12 board chair Lawrence Schovanec.

The majority of BYU’s head coaches were in the audience for the press conference in Studio C at the BYU Broadcasting Building, in addition to notable BYU alumni such as Danny Ainge and Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith.

Schovanec spoke first, officially welcoming BYU to the Big 12, followed by extended remarks from Bowlsby on why the conference went with BYU and why he is looking forward to the partnership.

“Provo is as picturesque a city as you’ll find in the United States,” Bowlsby said, mentioning that he looks forward to attending football games at LaVell Edwards Stadium. “I have been so impressed with everybody I have come in contact with at BYU.”

President Worthen then addressed the audience, saying that “none of this would have happened without Tom Holmoe.”

Fittingly, Holmoe was the final speaker before a Q&A session with the media and concluded by saying, “we didn’t reach our destination today, our journey will continue in the Big 12.”

The Cougars will participate in every sport sponsored by the Big 12 except equestrian, rowing and wrestling. The Big 12 sponsors every sport the Cougars compete in, except men’s volleyball. All sports will begin Big 12 schedules in the 2023-24 athletic season, except for men’s volleyball, which will continue to compete in the MPSF.

The BYU football team has been independent since 2011 after leaving the Mountain West Conference, whereas the school’s other sports, besides men’s volleyball, have competed in the West Coast Conference since 2011.

“We are truly grateful to the WCC,” Holmoe said. “Being a member of the WCC for the past 10 years helped us tremendously. All of our teams developed significantly while we’ve been a member of the WCC.”

Big 12 powerhouses Texas and Oklahoma announced their departure from the conference over the summer, opening the door for immediate expansion to include BYU. Cincinnati, Central Florida and Houston will join the Big 12 along with BYU, bringing the conference back to 12 teams. The other schools expected to remain in the conference include Texas Tech, TCU, Baylor, Oklahoma State, Iowa State, Kansas State, Kansas and West Virginia.

The Big 12 is commonly known as one of the “Power 5” conferences in college athletics, giving BYU the official moniker of a “Power 5 school” for the first time in its history. The Cougars were previously known as a “mid-major” in sports such as basketball, but that reputation changes as the Cougars join a conference with elite competition in nearly every sport, but especially basketball.

The Big 12 Conference has two men’s basketball national championships in recent years, with Kansas winning in 2008 and Baylor defeating Gonzaga in April of this year to become the reigning champions. Baylor also won the women’s basketball national championship in 2005, 2012 and 2019.

The BYU football team travels to Baylor on Oct. 16, giving Cougar fans and players their first taste of Big 12 country since becoming one of its newest members.

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