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Jayhawk talk: Former Daily Herald punster and KU grad Jason Franchuk welcomes BYU to the Big 12

By Jason Franchuk - | Sep 23, 2023

AP Photo/Colin E. Braley

Players for the Kansas Jayhawks take the field before an NCAA football game against Illinois on Friday, Sept. 8, 2023, in Lawrence, Kan.

Jason Franchuk

You thought you were done with me. Hey, I didn’t expect to see you anytime soon, either. Well, not here, anyway.

But here we are. A rubber band of brothers, so to speak. The Big 12 bends, apparently, but does not break.

Looking back to the year 2014, when I left Utah after 11 great years, if you had told me BYU would be facing Kansas in football I’d have given the Jayhawks zero chance.

I would’ve given a less-than-zero chance of the Cougars and Jayhawks ever being conference mates. But these are odds-bending times.

Kansas is 3-0 (!) and announced a sellout (!!) for Saturday’s game vs. BYU. And … it’s the Big 12 Conference opener for both (!!!)?

It’s a triple play of weird, wild stuff.

Oh, let’s go ahead and upgrade it to a grand slam. My wife and I recently moved to Cincinnati, and UC (where Audrey is a professor) is also a Big 12 school (!!!!)?

So allow me — the vigilant, dopey, punny, exclamation mark-loving outsider at the Daily Herald from 2003-2014 and a KU graduate of 2001 after being raised in Colorado Buffaloes country — to introduce you to the Big 12.

Let’s call it a “Be Careful What You Wished For” synopsis. (Not that you wished for this.)

But first, welcome aboard.

You’re not Texas or Oklahoma, so that’s a good start for a Big 12 newbie. Unless you’re into money, which is apparently a big deal in college football.

Ah, we will miss those trust fund frat boys in some regard. They knew how to have a good time with their grandfather’s riches. But the league’s in a more reasonable place without them.

And some big games can still be won. We think. We hope.

There is some animosity out there, to be sure. It’s just different. We all will miss Texas and doing the “Longhorns Down” sign. We’re the league where everyone’s got a chip but there’s no clear place to point our middle fingers.

We’re loyal and we tend to root for each other in the postseason. We will brag until the cows come home — and trust me, this league has some cows — that our nightly battles make us the best.

We’ve been through a lot. Thought we were toast as some schools bailed and the world shifted. Became a basketball juggernaut in a football world.

Amid all of this change, you may have heard BYU will get reconnected with Utah soon. I’m actually jealous, even if you all don’t like it. I miss Missouri. (Kansas has restarted its rivalries with Mizzou in various sports after insisting for years it wouldn’t, but it’s not quite the same.)

Now, Dear Readers Who I’ve Missed and Dearer Readers Who Have Missed Me, you wonder how it’s going to work out for BYU in this new league.

I’m going to say the same thing I did during the seismic shift of 2011. And I’m still going to be right. BYU’s biggest disadvantage is (in football and men’s basketball) its coaching staffs.

I haven’t kept up on all of the comings and goings in Provo in the last nine years. Dickson doesn’t always return my texts for some reason.

But I know enough that BYU still doesn’t pay market value to its coaches, especially strong assistants.

I always thought Bronco Mendenhall’s best years in Provo were in large part because of his accomplished staff. He generally had a well rounded, diverse group that had cut its chops at a lot of places. BYU’s been much more insular in recent years.

That can work in the Mountain West or independence. It will not work in the Big 12. Trust me on this one.

I’d say, year in year out, get ready for middle of the pack. In men’s hoops … things will be considerably worse. I always liked Mark Pope but I’m worried opposing Big 12 coaches are going to like him more. Fifth place in the West Coast Conference equals last in the Big 12.

I’m sorry if the truth of the Big 12 hurts.

I will tell you, though, I am happy for you. Even if I still think this union is very strange.

Please understand, this isn’t really a knock on the Cougars. I also never thought — amid all of this seat changing — that Kansas ever made any sense to garner an invite to the ACC or Big Ten.

It’s about “what can you do for us?” And, honestly, BYU isn’t going to help Kansas — or most Big 12 schools — in any estimable fashion. The Jayhawks (and most Big 12 schools) aren’t suddenly going to recruit the state of Utah or the Latter-Day Saint population.

BYU, however, gets a chance to build its brand on a major conference’s shoulders. Much, I suspect, the same way Utah built its brand (quite successfully) in the Pac-12 but didn’t really do its part to enhance the league’s overall value (hence part of the reason that league fell apart).

The Big 12: It’s not the league it used to be … but maybe that’s fine. We think. We hope. With you involved, maybe we pray.

We didn’t really need another conservative religious school. But I should tell you, you’ll be considerably more liked than Baylor.

It’s actually a Big 12 tradition to laugh whenever Baylor loses.

Maybe I made that up. But a new league should have new traditions. You can help us start that one.

And Kansas needs to get to 4-0 Saturday, or I’m afraid you’ll never let me hear the end of it.

It would be a pity, Big 12 buddy.

I had just gotten used to trash talking about football. Just before we met up again.

Jason Franchuk is a Kansas grad and a former Daily Herald sports writer who covered the Cougars from 2003 to 2014.


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