And the carousel spins again.
With Texas A&M's departure from the league, there's a scramble to see which program can be lured to keep the Big 12 not only alive and legitimate, but prosperous and afoot in the great college football race. As of right now, it appears the Big 12 has sprained one ankle while having its other foot lopped off. There aren't many schools with real cache that can get the Big 12 vital again and would want to join. Nebraska and Texas A&M, two of the five most relevant schools in the league, have now gotten out within a year's time.
And, yes, you're reading this on a college basketball blog. Football waves the wand, but these decisions do have impact in the second largest inter-collegiate sport.
BYU seems like they might be willing to flirt. Cougs in the Big 12. Hmm. Does it work? In order for that to happen, it's going to need promises and plenty of chatter with other schools. Specifically, the Big 12 needs to accurately advertise and get a dozen teams in its conference again. That way, a conference championship game in football can be held. That's paramount.
The funny part of this fledgling saga is how BYU is publicly acting so disturbed by having its name injected into expansion talks once again. Like the girlfriend that's cheated before and is stuck with that stigma, BYU's proven it will jump to a new conference, so it's just going to have to deal with that reputation. The school jettisoned the Mountain West last year and is currently an independent in football. All its other programs now reside in the West Coast Conference.
The Salt Lake Tribune's Jay Drew has a story out today that details BYU's ongoing disucssions with the Big 12, despite its claims to the contrary.
The Salt Lake Tribune has learned that BYU officials have had discussions with Big 12 officials within the past week regarding the school’s interest in joining the conference, and what conditions and assurances it would need to make the jump exactly a year after announcing they were breaking away from the Mountain West Conference.
It is unclear whether the talks have included an invitation from the Big 12.
A BYU source said the talks have included the school’s desire to utilize its own television network, BYUtv, in a BCS automatic-qualifying conference much as it plans to this year. The talks have also included ESPN officials and even some input from Notre Dame representatives, whom BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe has referred to as “partners” in the past year.
On the surface, if this is true, the Big 12 should probably not go to BYU's well, or at the very least look too desperate. Another school with a TV network and aspirations of separating its brand from the conference? That can't be good for league morale. BYU, a league newbie, would already have the upper hand over longtime members, even schools like Kansas, which has tremendous pull in basketball. BYU, like the Big 12, does have a deal with ESPN (who knows what kind of commitments are up in the air and how tangled that slinky is right now; that's an entirely different set of problems), so there could be arrangements negotiated there that could really hold things up.
Could it be football in the Big 12 and all other sports remain in the West Coast? A funky setup, but anything will be accommodated in the name of football. Right now, it looks like it's BYU ... then everything else. The Cougars, being independent, are on an island and the Big 12 will want to rope them in with the prospect of poaching two other schools (New Mexico? Houston? Memphis? Pulling TCU away from the Big East?) afterward.
Is the Big 12 ultimately doomed, though? Very well could be. Richard Justice's lede in his Houston Chronicle blog post today indicates he is on to something. Oklahoma can't be happy right now, and Oklahoma State should also be looking about moving West. The priorities for Big 12 officials right now need to be easing the mind of its current members while simulatenously and swiftly putting back together a league that's been waiting to buckle under its own weight for more than a year.