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Now that any sliver of hope, if there ever really was one, for a Pac-10 invite is gone, we can focus our sights on the Big XII. From the beginning I said I liked the idea of BYU going to the Big XII more than the Pac-10. The level of play in the Big XII is better than the Pac-10, and, honestly, I am tired of seeing the Pac-10 teams. BYU regularly schedules Pac-10 opponents for non-conference games, and regularly plays Pac-10 teams in bowl games. Don't get me wrong. BYU has had some good games against Pac-10 foes (59-0 comes to mind, Oregon and Oregon State in the Vegas Bowl, Washington to open the 1999 season), but one, sometimes two, Pac-10 teams almost every year is getting tiresome.
The realities of conference expansion have become very clear the last six months. Here is a short list of what we have learned about conference expansion:
1. Money matters.
2. Television = Money.
3. Geography does not matter.
4. Convenience matters (read no Sunday play issue)
5. Numbers 1-4 far outweigh the athletics and academics of a school.
6. Schools only worry about their own best interest.
7. The Univsersity of Texas wants as much control as possible.
With all these realities, especially number 7, out in the open, I am not as favorable about BYU to the Big XII as I previously was. However, if the Big XII extends an invite, I still say take it. (Mostly because I think if conditions ever become so bad--Texas exercising "unrighteous dominion"--the MWC would let BYU back in.)
The odds of BYU being invited to the Big XII are definitely higher than they were for BYU and the Pac-10, but BYU is no slam dunk when the Big XII finally does expand. (Don't listen to the rhetoric about staying at 10 teams, they will return to 12.) Evidence that BYU has a fair chance is that Oklahoma has already pushed for BYU to be included, that the Big XII has made it clear that they want to expand the conference footprint, and that BYU best replaces what was lost when Nebraska left--a national following (Notre Dames does not count).
Despite the new found trepidation about being one of Texas' pawns, Big XII membership still offers many advantages. These advantages include the increased national recognition and perception of being part of a BCS automatic qualifying conference, the increased revenues from television and bowl contracts, and the ability to be competitive.
What will happen in the end? That is still unclear. I am preparing myself for the worst (no Big XII invite for BYU, but a Big XII invite for TCU). It is hard to overemphasize the potential impact of Texas politics and the affiliation of BYU with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in conference expansion decisions. BYU has a nice resume and brings a respectable offer to the table. Unfortunately, it is not an offer that dwarfs the competition, which could make some of the more minor issues (geographical location, no Sunday play) work against BYU in the end. While I want to see BYU get the invite to the Big XII and BYU is qualified and deserving of the invite, I won't worry if the Big XII snubs BYU in the end. BYU and its fans have ample reason to be satisfied by staying in the MWC (more on that if BYU is left out of a 12 team Big XII).