The BYU Cougars have more history than just about any other mid-major football program in college football with a national title to their name and numerous NFL alumni. But recently, the Cougars have hit some difficult challenges. Since going independent, BYU has not seen the boon to their brand that they were expecting and now face a great deal of uncertainty as an Independent heading into the College Football Playoff era.
Already, the SEC and ACC have excluded BYU from their “Power Five” nonconference scheduling mandate which could create some issues filling out the schedule down the line. Without strong opponents on the schedule, BYU figures to be left out of the mix when it comes to making a run at a spot in the College Football Playoff. As a team without any conference affiliation, there is a definite doomsday scenario for the program where they could become unable to fill out a full season schedule.
Head coach Bronco Mendenhall has seen the challenges that this new playoff system will pose to his program and has made a case for possibly joining the Big 12 if the conference looks to expand from their current 10-team membership. Mendenhall cites BYU’s strong attendance, winning percentage, a highly desirable market in Salt Lake City, and a worldwide following because of their church affiliation.
There are legitimate reasons for BYU to be a viable option for the Big 12. It would help open up the west coast a bit more for programs looking to recruit there while adding a strong national brand. The conference already has two religious institutions with the Baylor Bears and TCU Horned Frogs, so assimilating the church-backed BYU to the mix would not be a major challenge.
However, despite the program’s merits, BYU is not on the Big 12’s radar for expansion. According to the American-Statesman, citing two sources, there is very little momentum for adding the Cougars anytime soon. The conference seems committed to their 10-team stable, actively making the claim in the media that it is a strength of the conference heading into the College Football Playoff.
Even if you don’t buy that, though, the conference has plenty of reasons to maintain their status quo. Last week at the annual spring meetings, the Big 12 announced a record $220.1 million in distribution revenue to split between the 10 teams in the conference. Adding more teams means slicing the pie a couple extra ways. And if the conference is raking in money with the number of teams they have now, there will be very little motivation to make a change to their lineup.
Unfortunately for BYU, that leaves the Cougars on the outside looking in as the college football landscape continues to change. Will BYU find a place in the new system?