COUGAR TRACKS

Three Storylines For BYU To Watch From Texas/Oklahoma Moving To SEC

Jul 27, 2021, 6:08 PM
BYU Football - Flags...
BYU Football players carry out flags onto the field at LaVell Edwards prior to game against Troy Trojans. (BYU Photo/Jaren Wilkey)
(BYU Photo/Jaren Wilkey)

PROVO, Utah – Like the rest of the college landscape, BYU football will have their eyes peeled on the ripple effects both Texas and Oklahoma to the SEC will cause.

After months of secret negotiations, it’s incredible that it only took a paragraph from the powerful Longhorns and Sooners to request membership into the SEC.

The impact of Texas/Oklahoma in the SEC will cause change for college spots. No one knows what type of change it will create, but it’s believed to have a trickle effect across the entire sport.

As an Independent, BYU always has to focus on what impact each move in the college landscape will have on them. So here are three things that I believe BYU should be keeping tabs on now that the Longhorns and Sooner are headed for the SEC.

#1 Conference Realignment

Well, duh. Of course, this is number one. Conference realignment is full steam ahead. How quick will leagues make moves in response to Texas and Oklahoma? It’s tough to gauge as this move caught everyone off guard.

BYU has turned Independence into a successful endeavor over the past decade and shown they can operate on their own dime while still putting together schedules that feature some of the best programs in college football.

A power conference has always been the dream for BYU athletics. If the remaining eight teams in the Big 12 Conference stick together, maybe they finally come calling after turning down the Cougars for all of these years.

The Pac-12 is a brilliant geographical fit for BYU. The Cougars location aligns with what new Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff believes is a strength for his league, being the only power league with teams in the Pacific and Mountain timezones.

Kliavkoff said on Tuesday that there is no AAU membership requirement for teams to join the Pac-12. However, he didn’t mention anything about research classifications. BYU is currently a Carnegie R2 research university. Every school in the Pac-12 Conference is an R1 Carnegie research university.

#2 Changes to SEC scheduling

With Texas and Oklahoma expected to be moving to the SEC, what will that move do to the SEC league schedules? The SEC currently plays eight conference games, leaving room for four non-conference games. BYU, as an Independent, is viewed as a Power 5 program by the SEC in regards to scheduling. That has allowed BYU to schedule six games since 2011 against teams from the SEC.

Back in 2019, Alabama head coach Nick Saban said he would like to see Power Five programs play at least 10 Power Five teams in a season. Now that the Longhorns and Sooners are on their way to joining, it’s hard to imagine the SEC not bumping up their league games up from eight to nine or even 10 games, as the greatest college football coach once recommended.

If that happens, that could limit the opportunities BYU has to land games against SEC programs if the Cougars continue on the path of Independence.

BYU currently has six games against SEC programs scheduled from 2022-2035, with four of those games scheduled to be played in Provo.

The last thing an Independent BYU needs is power conferences enhancing their number of league games.

#3 ESPN’s role in College Football

ESPN is going all-in on coverage of college football. The sports TV giant inked a $3 billion deal with the SEC beginning in 2024. And now Texas and Oklahoma are expected to become members soon. Oh, and don’t forget ESPN was stuck with that terrible Longhorn Network contract for another 10 years; that probably goes out the window now. Coincidence?

ESPN also has rights to the College Football Playoff. According to media research firm Navigate, if the Playoff goes to a 12-team model, it could be worth up to $2 billion per year.

That’s a lot of money ESPN could be spending on college football if the CFP sticks with ESPN and doesn’t hit the open market.

We’ve always known that ESPN runs college football, but the recent moves with the SEC and potential Playoff deals highlight that more than ever.

What influence could ESPN have on BYU in the future?

The worldwide leader will never speak on BYU’s behalf in realignment negotiations or regard to playoff access. But will they, along with Gridiron’s Dave Brown, still find ways to get an Independent BYU great non-conference matchups in an ever-changing conference and consumer landscape? What about more money in the TV deal? Could BYU become more valuable as a digital property on ESPN+?

BYU has a strong partnership with ESPN that goes beyond just money. Without ESPN, Independence never would have been possible. The Cougars are heading into the second year of a new contract where ESPN controls the home broadcasts for BYU home football games. The contract runs through the 2026 season.

How BYU fits in with ESPN’s grand college football vision in the future will be fascinating to watch.

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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Three Storylines For BYU To Watch From Texas/Oklahoma Moving To SEC