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The Big 12's expansion list should be BYU and then whoever else

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Is BYU really about to pull this off? A bold decision to go independent could result in a jump from mid-majordom to the Power 5 after only a half-decade or so, assuming Big 12 presidents make the move that best seems to fit what they say they're looking for.

Consider the following:

  • We ranked eight Big 12 candidates by a few numbers that represent what the conference says it's looking for. The Cougars dusted everyone else and would actually improve the Big 12 average in football quality, football attendance, and academics. And we didn't even look at football history, where the Cougars claim a national championship and Heisman Trophy.
  • ESPN polled Big 12 head coaches, with BYU and Houston claiming ballot supremacy. (Coaches don't make these decisions, but still.)
  • The ACC, Big Ten, and SEC already consider BYU a Power 5-level program, for scheduling purposes.
  • A BYU fan created a site laying out lots of infographics in support of the Cougars' bid, and ... frankly, if I were a fan of another candidate, I'd just start yelling about there being a Charizard outside the window to try and distract everyone from this completely overwhelming case.
  • BYU fans will show up anywhere on God's green earth, including Murfreesboro, Tenn. Arizona admits its game near Phoenix is becoming a Cougars home game.
  • If you extrapolate some LinkedIn data, it's easy to argue BYU already has significant presences in Big 12 regions like Dallas and Houston and so forth.
  • Another point there, via that Common Census fan map project: "BYU is the No. 1 most popular college team in Utah. The Cougars are No. 2 in Tempe, Ariz., No. 3 in Tucson, Ariz., No. 3 in the Pacific Northwest, No. 4 in Los Angeles, No. 5 in Dallas-Fort Worth, No. 5 in San Diego, No. 6 in the Bay Area, No. 9 in Houston and No. 10 in Lexington, Ky. The Cougars are in the top 20 in Washington, D.C., Chicago, and New England."
  • But what about that no-games-on-Sunday thing, which would impact sports besides football? Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said this week that football-only membership would be "probably feasible," even if "probably not our first choice." BYU football brings more value than, say, UCF football does. BYU football also brings more value than UCF football plus UCF basketball, UCF softball, UCF esports, and so on.
  • Football-only would also moot the other argument, that Provo is pretty far from everywhere else in the conference. But we'll see.
  • The fact that BYU put out a statement immediately after the Big 12's announcement says a lot. While at least five other schools had already sent marketing materials to the Big 12, the Cougars were silent (as far as we can tell) until the gates were officially opened. That projects a lot of confidence.

If Big 12 presidents were to vote on the rest of a list right now, I'd be willing to bet it'd be BYU, then Cincinnati, and then some mix of Houston, Memphis, and UConn. But if your list doesn't start with BYU, based on the Big 12's stated qualifications, crumple it up and try harder.


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