A look back at BYU’s first year in the Big 12

Sept. 10, 2021, is a day that BYU fans will remember forever. The atmosphere on that warm Friday afternoon was already buzzing as the Cougar football team prepared for a Saturday night showdown with the rival Utah Utes at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

Yet, the anticipation for this historic matchup was overshadowed by the announcement came that after years of attempts to break into the Power 5 level BYU would be entering the Big 12 Conference with the chance to compete starting in the 2023-2024 athletic season. Cougar fans around the country rejoiced.

23ATH Big 12 Countdown 05523ATH Big 12 CountdownJuly012023Photo by Joey Garrison/BYUphoto.byu.edu

“For years BYU fans felt like outsiders within the world of college athletics,” said Deseret News sportswriter Jackson Payne. “So, to finally have a seat at a power conference table made everyone feel like the Cougars could belong and earn everything they were entitled to.”

“This was the ultimate validating gift that all the hard work had paid off,” said BYU Sports Nation host Spencer Linton.

On July 1st, 2023, BYU officially entered the Big 12. The dream had become reality. The Cougar faithful waited with anticipation the opportunity to welcome some of the biggest brands in college athletics to Provo to see the stunning backdrops, hear the roars of the intense home crowd atmospheres, and feel the spirit of the BYU mission. Now as the first year in the Big 12 comes to a close, we at the Daily Universe wanted to hear perspectives on BYU’s first Big 12 year from individuals outside of the program. Here are some of the thoughts from three different outside media pundits as they reflect on BYU’s first-year Big 12 impressions.

A welcome entry

When the announcement came to Big 12 officials that Texas and Oklahoma would be leaving the Big 12 to join the SEC, fans of the conference were left with uncertainty. However, as the Big 12 made the expansion announcement a sense of relief was felt by all schools.

23-24mBKB at Kansas 118023-24mBKB at KansasBYU: 76 #7 Kansas: 68February 27, 2024Photography by Nate Edwards/BYU© BYU PHOTO 2024 All Rights Reserved (801)422-7322

“When it came out that Cincinnati, Houston, UCF, and BYU were coming to the Big 12 the first thought from a Big 12 perspective is that the conference is saved,” said Drake Toll the host of the Locked on Big 12 Podcast.

“I was certainly excited about all four additions,” added Brian Hanni, the Voice of the Kansas Jayhawks. “I think all four fanbases, cities and traditions all bring something special to the mix.”

However, of the four schools, it was apparent to those in the media which program brought the most to the table.

“When you take those four new schools from the Big 12 at the time one stood out from the rest, that being BYU,” said Toll.

“I always thought that Brigham Young would be a great addition to the conference,” said Berry Tramel of the website Selloutcrowd.com, who has been covering the Big 12 for decades. “It is clear that BYU was the most power conference ready athletic program out there.”

Also apparent to the Big 12 audience was the value and magnitude of the BYU brand.

23wSOC vs UCF 056523wSOC vs UCF2023 BYU Women’s SoccerBYU-3 UCF-2October 23, 2023© BYU PHOTO 2023 All Rights Reserved (801)422-7322

“There’s such a passionate fanbase and it’s not just nationwide, it’s worldwide,” said Hanni.

Toll sees BYU’s commitment to faith as a huge benefit to not only BYU, but also the Big 12 as a whole. ” I think BYU better than anyone else in the country is able to merge a commitment to excellence in athletics and a commitment to faith. They do both perfectly,” said Toll.

While some in the conference viewed BYU’s religious affiliation as a detractor, Tramel thought BYU’s approach was ideal. “BYU handled the politics of the Big 12 with class and distinction,” said Tramel.

First year grades

When it comes to BYU’s performance as an athletic department the evaluations were fair yet met with optimism. “BYU handled themselves very well I thought,” said Tramel. “They showed they could compete at a nice level and potentially get even better.”

23FTB vs Cincinnati 212723FTB vs Cincinnati2023 BYU FootballBYU-35 CIN-27Photo by Jaren Wilkey/BYUSeptember 29, 2023© BYU PHOTO 2023 All Rights Reserved (801)422-7322

Hanni cited BYU Basketball’s win over Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse as a massive indicator of the Big 12 readiness of the Cougar athletic department. “I was so impressed at the composure they showed in that environment going up against a talent Kansas team and not batting an eye,” he said.

However, some believe that BYU is capable of much more than simply competing in the Big 12.

“BYU is embracing an adjustment period. In order to be excellent, you cannot embrace and adjustment period you must embrace excellence,” said Toll. “What needs to change moving forward is truly the mindset. BYU has enough resources to walk into the Big 12 and compete immediately.”

“If BYU could figure out a way to get into the top four quadrant on a regular basis that we be superb for their brand in their athletic pedigree,” said Tramel. “With Oklahoma and Texas leaving there is a vacuum at the top and virtually everyone as chance to fill it including BYU.”

Further conference expansion

Big 12 media pundits are also excited for the continued expansion of the Big 12.

“All four of those second wave additions I think are going to big time additions to the Big 12 culture and overall reputation,” said Hanni.

There are also expectations that the new schools will be able to compete immediately for conference supremacy. “I think the new schools should be able to take advantage of the parity of the Big 12,” said Tramel.

For Toll, the most exciting element is the renewal of the Holy War rivalry between BYU and Utah. “The fact that that game, one of the top 10 rivalries in college football, is in the Big 12 changes the landscape of this conference,” said Toll. “What drives viewership is conflict, and BYU versus Utah is must-see television.”

Perceptions of the Big 12 from BYU

BYU has also been able to form impressions of their Big 12 conference mates. To many, the reception from other fan bases has been welcome.

“I think BYU has been generally welcomed by other Big 12 schools,” said Payne. “It’s hard to deny the energy within the fan base, the efforts of the athletic department, or the passion found at each game.”

Linton also found this to be the case in his interactions with representatives and fans from the other Big 12 schools.

“I would say it has been a pleasant surprise for most fan bases to interact with BYU fans, and certainly they have now understood that the majority of BYU’s programs, if not all of them, were ready from day one to compete,” said Linton.


As the end BYU’s inaugural Big 12 season looms there is much to look back upon fondly. From conference championships, streak ending upsets on the softball pitch in Norman, or victories in Allen Fieldhouse, Cougar fans will remember this season forever. Even more exciting is the prospects ahead for BYU in the Big 12. BYU has a spot at the table in perhaps the most exciting era of college athletics. And even more exciting is that our Big 12 counterparts have noticed.

“Being in Provo for a BYU football gameday trumps anything I have seen in college football,” said Toll. “The fan base, the pomp, the circumstance, the passion is unmatched.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Top Sports Stories

BYU basketball adds another highly rated recruit to roster

BYU basketball adds another highly rated recruit to rosterThings simply haven't slowed down for Kevin Young and company when it comes to recruiting.BYU...

Life as a True Freshman in Division 1 College Football: Tre Alexander lll

Life as a True Freshman in Division 1 College Football: Tre Alexander lllChaotic. Sloppy. Intense.These are the first words that come to mind if...

A look back at BYU’s first year in the Big 12

A look back at BYU's first year in the Big 12Sept. 10, 2021, is a day that BYU fans will remember forever. The atmosphere...

Slow and steady wins the race: Lucas Bons’ climb to become one of the top milers in the country

Slow and steady wins the race: Lucas Bons’ climb to become one of the top milers in the countryKelly Clarkson famously sings, “What doesn’t...
- Advertisement -
Print Friendly, PDF & Email