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Five questions still to be answered about BYU’s move to the Big 12

By Staff | Sep 10, 2021

Jaren Wilkey/BYU

BYU director of athletics Tom Holmoe (right) listens as Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby talks during a press conference after the Big 12 officially accepted BYU's application to join the league on Friday, Sept. 10, 2021. (BYU Photo)

After a couple of months of discussing, hoping and maneuvering, BYU sports officially joined the Big 12 conference on Friday.

Since the move won’t officially take place until 2023-24, there is still time for things to fall into place for the Cougars.

Here are five questions still to be answered about BYU going to the Big 12:

1. How will rivalries be impacted?

It’s a question that is particularly fitting on the week when the Cougar football team (as well as the women’s soccer team) battles Utah in the biggest annual sporting event in the state of Utah.

Cougar director of athletics Tom Holmoe admitted during Friday’s press conference that it won’t always be easy to make the rivalry games continue.

“In the last couple of years, you have seen a relationship with BYU and Utah that is a little more open and we are transparent with each other’s needs,” Holmoe said. “Being in two separate conferences, we will have needs and desires like Utah has had as a member of the Pac-12.”

He said he hasn’t talked with Utah director of athletics Mark Harlan but noted there are contracted games in the future that will be discussed.

It seems likely that BYU will still find ways to face the Utes in a variety of sports, but having a conference schedule will make continuing regional football contests with Utah State and Boise State more challenging.

2. What will be the impact on BYUtv sports coverage?

One of the sticking points for teams in conferences over the years has been how TV production (and TV dollars) get distributed between schools.

For the last decade, the only entities BYU has had to deal with were ESPN (for the major money-maker, football) and the West Coast Conference. That gave the Cougars a lot of autonomy to use sports programming on BYUtv. Where does that now fall in the agreement with the Big 12 conference?

It’s still unclear exactly how many conference games will be played and how those will impact the nonconference competition. Holmoe said the conference will be divided into two divisions for football but the makeup of those division has yet to be decided.

“Those are discussions that still need to take place,” Holmoe said.

3. What happens with the previously organized football schedules?

Cougar director of athletics Tom Holmoe worked hard to create the best schedules he could, sometimes slotting in games more than a decade in advance.

With limited non-conference games possible starting in 2023-24 it will be interesting to see how matchups with teams like Tennessee, Stanford, Arkansas, Miami and Michigan State are handled.

“Starting today (Friday) we’ll have to start working on that,” Holmoe said. “We’ll have to unwind some of those contracts. It’s important that everyone understands that with each contract that we did from the time we became an independent, there was a clause in it that was set in the event that we left to join a Power Five conference, there would be an agreement to work it out. A lot of these are going to unwind pretty easily because they are far enough out. Next year we will play our entire schedule but the year after that it starts getting a little more even. But we’re going to want to keep some of these games that we’ve contracted.”

4. Where will BYU fit in the decision-making structure of the Big 12?

New additions to conferences often have to find a way to integrate into the structure of a conference as they figure out who has what type of say.

Although two of the major Big 12 voices in Texas and Oklahoma are leaving by 2025, BYU has often been a strong voice in previous conferences (WAC, MWC, WCC). Now the Cougars will have to see how they fit in the Big 12 hierarchy.

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby did note how familiar Big 12 administrators are with BYU administrators and that there has already been some connections and respect developed, so that may fast track the adaptation process as the Cougars become part of the conference.

5. How will the conference payout money be used?

The understanding is that by becoming part of a Power Five conference, BYU will be receiving a larger amount of television contract dollars — at least eventually.  What will that money be used for?

The Cougars needed a successful donation campaign to overcome some of the COVID-19 pandemic-related fiscal challenges in 2020. There also might options to increase coaching salaries, which have traditionally been lower at BYU than at other Power Five schools.

Bowlsby didn’t directly address how the conference revenue will be distributed but did say the league is looking to position itself in the evolving world of college sports.

“The media environment is changing rapidly,” Bowlsby said. “We have attempted, if you put it in a recruiting environment, to add the very best athlete we possibly could. That is certainly is emblematic of BYU. In adding the four members that we have, we will gain as much as we can possibly gain. It’s not a time where I can forecast it’s going to be this much more or this much less. I think live sports is always going to be a valuable commodity. If you have live sports with the very best competition you can put together in an alliance, you have a chance to go forward and do good things.”

Holmoe said that while the money is important for survival, he said you can’t lost track of the student-athletes, coaches and the “things that count the most” in the pursuit of revenue.

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