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Biggest Winners From BYU Joining The Big 12 Conference

BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe gestures while stating, "I love the fact that we get to go into the Big 12 with all our teams" during a press conference announcing that BYU has accepted an invitation to the Big 12 Conference at BYU in Provo on Friday, Sept. 10, 2021. BYU will play all sports provided by the Big 12 except for equestrian, rowing and wrestling. Men’s volleyball will continue to play in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, as the Big 12 does not offer the sport. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

PROVO, Utah – BYU athletics is in the Big 12 Conference. A surreal moment for an athletic department that has been working towards this moment for decades. Now it’s here.

It won’t always be easy in a power conference. There are some tough times ahead, but BYU is in a better position now than a decade ago to compete at a national level.

There’s a lot of celebration at BYU right now for this announcement. But here are the biggest winners from this move to the Big 12 Conference.

Tom Holmoe

BYU’s longtime athletic director just etched his name in BYU lore forever. He might need a statue erected on campus to honor him for getting BYU into the Big 12.

Holmoe loves the phrase, “Hard is good.” Well, it’s definitely been hard for nearly the past two decades for BYU. But he navigated the ship and formed relationships that turned into a league membership that very few expected ever to happen.

Getting BYU into a power conference is the stuff that Cougar fans have dreamed of for years, and Holmoe delivered the dream.

Mark Pope/BYU Basketball

BYU basketball just entered into the best basketball league in the nation. No longer will head coach Mark Pope need to offer three for one’s in scheduling in hopes of getting bluebloods to come to the Marriott Center. Now he can get quality home-and-homes with nearly everyone in the country, along with navigating the toughest basketball schedule in the land.

Bob Bowlsby

When Texas and Oklahoma announced their intentions to apply for SEC membership, Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby was blindsided. Everyone around college athletics was ready to lay the Big 12 Conference to rest.

But Bowlsby worked hard behind the scenes and acted fast to help bring stability to his conference hanging by a thread.

Adding BYU, Cincinnati, Houston, and UCF, with the focus of football success was a great move for Bowlsby and the Big 12.

Once the PAC-12 Conference said they weren’t interested in adding anyone, Bowlsby had to act fast. He did that. Those decisions likely saved his job, but more importantly, his league. The league that BYU now calls home.

Kalani Sitake

BYU football coach Kalani Sitake has done a solid job with Independence. The same can be said with Bronco Mendenhall in the early years of the historic move. But to see Sitake embrace Mark Pope and other distinguished BYU people on Friday at the historic press conference, you could tell it was something that meant a lot to Sitake.

Sitake now has the chance to construct his roster knowing what he is going up against every single year. No longer is he stacking his football program against the nation. Instead, it’s hyper-focused on the league, and now he can sell the BYU brand, which has had an appeal to a niche on the recruiting trail, to a broader recruiting footprint with a power league behind him.

BYU Fans

Think about one of the talking points with BYU’s candidacy for the Big 12, the national -or even international- fan base.

That massive following was developed through a connection to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and high levels of play.

BYU fans have followed the Cougars through the WAC, the Mountain West, Independence, and even the West Coast Conference. They’ve stayed loyal despite never having great access to college athletics’ biggest stages. Now the loyal fans are rewarded with an athletic department that will get the chance to play on the biggest stages.

The question of “who have they played” will no longer be an automatic punchline when breaking down a successful BYU team. Cougar fans have to be thrilled with the possibilities.

The chance to witness great programs coming in and out of Provo with conference titles on the line. That is something BYU fans have been craving for a long time. They finally get the chance to see what their beloved program can do at the highest stages.

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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