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BYU Partnering With Big 12 Conference In 2020 Would Be Dream Scenario

BYU's quarterback Taysom Hill pushes Texas' Adrian Colbert away on a run that was called back as BYU and Texas play Saturday, Sept. 6, 2014, in Austin, Texas. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)

PROVO, Utah – All of the work BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe spent the past seven years putting together BYU’s challenging 2020 schedule evaporated in one month due to COVID-19.

With the SEC joining the Big Ten and Pac-12 by going to a Conference-Only schedule, it’s left BYU with six games remaining on its upcoming slate this fall. All the remaining six games are against programs from Group of 5 or FCS conferences.

The last time BYU played a regular-season without any Power 5/BCS/Alliance programs in non-conference play was in 1975. When Arizona and Arizona State were BYU’s conference mates in the WAC.

Time is running out to put together a schedule for the season. Decisions need to be made and it needs to happen fast. What are BYU’s options going forward? Let’s size it up.

Dream Scenario for BYU: Partnership with Big 12 Conference for one year

Nothing gets social media popping like BYU and Big 12 talk. Does this thing ever die? To make this talk absolutely perfect and make 2020 even weirder than it already is, we need Tuxedo Yoda, Greg Swaim, and Dude of West Virginia posting BYU is in the Big 12 in 280 characters or less.

OrangeBloods.com Publisher Geoff Ketchum of the Rivals network tweeted after the SEC Conference-Only news, “Dear @BYU, welcome to the @Big12Conference. I don’t really know how this shotgun marriage just happened, but welcome to the family. WARNING: WE ARE A DYSFUNCTIONAL BUNCH.”

That was probably the best thing BYU fans have read on Twitter in months.

Does BYU to the Big 12 for one year make sense? Absolutely it does. Does the Big 12 Conference ever operate in a fashion that makes sense? Absolutely not.

There’s still no word on what the Big 12 Conference is going to do this fall. Commissioner Bob Bowlsby has kept the league’s plans close to the vest but did say Thursday night on ESPN Radio’s Freddie and Fitzsimmons that both a Conference-Only and 10-game model “could be under discussion” this Monday when Big 12 Presidents meet.

Power 5 leagues are going to 10-game schedules. The Big 12 adding BYU for one year could give each current member of the league a 10-game schedule along with BYU.

Holmoe has said in past years during normal circumstances that there hasn’t been any interest from leagues to form scheduling partnerships with BYU. Does that change now? What does the Big 12 gain from adding BYU for one year?

It feels unlikely that the Big 12 would pull in BYU for one year. But as Holmoe said last week, “anything is on the table right now.”

Don’t keep your hopes up.

To entertain the thought of BYU in the Big 12 for one year, extremes might need to happen. If you’re BYU, offer to play all games on the road at Big 12 venues. Heck, maybe you offer to pay to play in the Big 12 this year. I’ve always advocated for BYU to buy their way into a Power 5 conference for years. How much is the cost of a 10-game conference Big 12 schedule? If you want a season bad enough against competition that moves your program forward, this might be the course of action to take.

BYU has made it clear they will adhere to the testing protocols issued by any conference. They are willing to do what it takes to make a season happen. The problem is that BYU has no voice at the virtual Zoom table right now. BYU is waiting for word from the power conferences just like many of you reading this from your house that you’ve been quarantined in for months.

Some would say, BYU, get a conference partnership like Notre Dame did with the ACC. Problem with that logic, the Irish are a full-fledged member in the ACC in everything besides football and hockey. They get a cut of ACC revenue from TV and they are in the rotation for ACC New Year’s Six bowl games. There was a working relationship built-in between the Irish and ACC before the pandemic. BYU has no semblance of any of that with the Big 12 Conference. The only connection they have to the league is they gave once gave a presentation during a sweepstakes-like realignment frenzy.

Keep in mind, the Big 12 Conference is one of two Power 5 leagues that doesn’t consider BYU a Power 5 opponent for Non-Conference scheduling. Only four games have taken place between BYU and Big 12 programs since the Cougars took the path of Independence in 2011. Three of those games were against Texas. The other league that doesn’t classify BYU as a P5 opponent is the Pac-12, but everyone not named Colorado is scheduling the Cougars in that league.

But the lack of a P5 label kind of tips you off to how the conference views the Cougars.

Maybe the Big 12 commits to a Conference-only plus a non-conference game. If that happens, you would think the partnership BYU has formed with ESPN steps in and lands the Cougars a few games. But don’t rule out the possibility the Big 12 views their Conference Title game as the 10th game and calls it a day. Because bowl games and Playoff implications are clearly out of sight and out of mind with conferences pushing back their title games to mid-December.

The positive here compared to years past with the Big 12 is that a decision likely comes very soon as Big 12 Presidents meet on Monday.

Don’t count on it: Games against ACC teams

The ACC announced they were going with a 10-game conference schedule plus one non-conference game. With the non-conference needing to be played in the state of the ACC program. That was viewed by many nationally to be a move by the ACC to pin the SEC into a corner to maintain the old out-of-conference in-state rivalries. Now that the SEC is going to Conference-only, don’t be surprised if the ACC just eliminates the non-conference game altogether and goes with a 10-game conference schedule as well.

Wild Card: Mountain West Conference

Projecting where Group of 5 leagues such as the Mountain West Conference proceed now that P5 leagues have are turning to Conference-only is an interesting discussion. The MWC already has 12 members in its conference. They don’t need an extra program like the Big 12 to move to a clean 10-game slate within the league.

The problem for G5 leagues is that they rely heavily on games against P5 teams. Losing those paydays to usually take a big beatdown hurts the bottom line of these athletic departments. Could BYU afford to pay a few MWC squads to come out to Provo and play a few games?

There are a lot of voices in the MWC that still hold grudges against BYU. Former SDSU head coach and current New Mexico Defensive Coordinator Rocky Long said he would love to have BYU back in the conference, but also noted, he wouldn’t schedule them as an Independent so they are forced to come crawling back to the MWC.

Does Long represent in the MWC? Of course not. But there are still some bad feelings towards BYU for what went down 10 years ago. If everyone can get over the past and have the common goal of trying to get a football season off the ground this year, why not have these two parties link up again for one year?

Can’t Complain: Keep current six games, add Independents to fill the gaps

BYU football players and coaches don’t care who it is at this point that they face. They just want “the smoke.” Which basically means, they want the chance to compete against anyone.

Keeping intact a schedule that features Boise State, Houston, in-state rival Utah State, and San Diego State wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. So if those games are kept and then BYU adds Independents New Mexico State, Liberty, Army, and UConn, you can live with that.

For those that have complained schedules at BYU have been too hard during Independence, this would be a nice temperature check to see how BYU fares with a schedule against a bunch of Group of 5 teams.

Might need to entertain the thought a lot more: Independent-Only

How does an NFL-style schedule sound against UMass, Liberty, UConn, New Mexico State, and Army? Home-and-home’s with those five teams would bring the total up to 10. I think any BYU fan would take it over a scenario where every league goes Conference-only and BYU is left not playing any games.

The problem is that the optics would not bode well on Independence. BYU couldn’t predict a pandemic was going to be unleashed on the entire globe. That’s not the fault of BYU. But perception is king in college football and to be lumped in with the aforementioned programs, that would leave talking heads that are anti-Independence with a lot to talk about.

All of this might still lead to one thing…no football

Saturday’s in the fall without college football? Let’s hope and pray this isn’t the “new normal.”

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12-3 pm) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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