Yesterday, it was reported that the Big XII had formally invited TCU to join the conference. This turn of events caught the Brigham Young Cougars fanbase completely off guard. It has left everyone asking, "What now?"
First, TCU has to accept. It would be an even bigger shock to learn that TCU does not accept the offer. If the Horned Frogs were willing to go to the Big East, then the Big XII is a no brainer. That would give the Big XII 10 teams, including fence sitting Missouri.
Second, Missouri has to decide its course. If the Tigers can find accpetance in the SEC, then they are expected to leave. Such a move would me more of a death sentence to Missouri than it will be for Texas A&M, but that appears to be a secondary concern right now. Missouri is just as fed up with the Big XII behind the scenes shenanigans as the Aggies, and would rather make a statement by leaving than do what is best long term.
At this point, it wouldn't be surprising if Missouri ended up leaving for the Big Ten. The Tigers were more than willing to bolt for that conference a year ago. With all that has happened recently (ACC going to 14 teams, SEC currently at 13, and the Big East on the verge of absolute irrelevance), the Big Ten might feel it a strategic necessity to grab Missouri and leave the 14th spot for Notre Dame. (Remember, this is the conference that stayed at 11 teams for over 15 years.)
Third, regardless of what Missouri does, the Big XII needs to push its total membership back to 12. While no one has come out, point blank, and said it, it is nearly impossible that the Big XII does not recognize and accept that it must go back to 12 members to achieve long term stability and respectability.
That is where BYU come back into the picture. The Big XII will need a minimum of two teams. If Missouri leaves, then three will be required to reach 12. The story linked above only mentions current Big East members Louisville and West Virginia as possible invitees, notwithstanding numerous reports the last several weeks that BYU was a prime candidate. Where does BYU stand now?
This is a difficult question because no one, besides the actual decision makers, knows where BYU and the Big XII stood before yesterday's announcement. The public has been led to believe that BYU and the Big XII were in serious talks and very close to a deal. BYU can offer a lot to the Big XII, but the Cougars are going to ask for a lot in return.
BYU went independent for the exposure it would bring, and for the control to provide almost unlimited availability of its games for fans. With its own television network, HD truck, and state-of-the-art broadcasting facilities, BYU will want to keep a lot of that control.
BYU athletic teams have refused to participate in events scheduled on Sunday. BYU would expect the Big XII to accept to schedule around this standard.
In my opinion, by inviting TCU, the Big XII sent BYU a message. While the Big XII might still be high on the Cougars and want them to be part of the 12 team league, they want the Cougars to understand the conference won't bend over backwards to get them. TCU, by itself, may not have as much value to the conference as BYU might, but the Horned Frogs don't look to be asking for as much back in return. In the end, the Big XII considered BYU and TCU to have equal net value, but a lot less work was involved to get TCU.
I expect Louisville and West Virginia to continue to be leaked as the schools of choice, even if deep down inside the Big XII wants BYU. It is all a negotiating tactic. The Big XII wants to be in control.
Personally, I want to see BYU in the Big XII. If BYU needs to back of on its demands, then I would remove the "no Sunday play" from the table. That does NOT mean I think BYU should start participating in sporting events on Sunday. I just think that this is not the time to fight this battle.
BYU can fight this battle once they are a member of the conference. The conflict over playing on Sunday only happens a couple of times, and some of those would require BYU to advance to the championship round of the conference tournament (which won't happen every year). Football and men's basketball don't have any Sunday games. When the conflict arises, BYU needs to forfeit by not even showing up.
There can be two outcomes of this approach: 1) No one makes a big deal about it because the sports involved are not major sports and it is just one game out of many, or 2) Everyone makes a big deal because BYU is a serious contender, and, seeing BYU won't budge on this issue, they figure out a way to accommodate BYU.
I don't know if backing off on Sunday play will be enough, but it is a starting point.
How will it end?
For the BYU faithful, the one question bigger than "What now?" is "How will it end?" That is a question no one has a solid answer for right now.
If it is so important that BYU be part of the Big XII, then somehow, someway, BYU will get in.
As much as I want BYU in the Big XII, and as much as I disliked the news about TCU, I am prepared for the worst. The most important thing for fans is to not overreact to the outcome.
Although I am not giving up hope yet, I am ready to accept that if BYU is not part of the Big XII, when all is said and done, then it wasn't the right thing. I also expect that time will prove BYU was better off remaining independent for the time being.
The Editor appreciates all feedback. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org