BYU: The One That Got Away From the Pac-12
For years the BYU Cougars made overtures to the Pac-12 trying to earn an invite into the conference. Unfortunately for them at the time, all the Pac-12 wanted to do was date them, they were never willing to settle down and marry. Now they had a lot of dates, in football especially, BYU played five Pac-12 teams in 2021, three in 2019 and four in 2018., but to the Pac-12 they were just a schedule filler, a one-night stand, and not a long term partner.
Why the Pac-12 didn’t want BYU
As many Big 12 schools found out last summer, the Pac-12 can be a bit, well, snooty. They like things their way, they look down on other conferences, and schools that are different. If you’re not a prominent liberal, highly academic institution they don’t want you in their club, and while BYU may have great academics, and is highly respected they’re also a very conservative religious school. It does make sense that a conference on the West Coast would look down on Middle America schools in Utah, Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas despite the fact that schools like BYU, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Baylor and Texas Tech, have overall better athletic departments than schools like Cal, Washington State and Oregon State, However, none of those schools fit the Pac-12 mold.
Now, yes, there was a time where Texas Tech and Oklahoma State nearly got in, but that was because they came with blue bloods Texas, and Oklahoma. If you bring a blue blood in they’re not completely inept, so of course they’ll take the hit in other areas. The Pac-12 doesn’t like the thought of religious schools in it but you know if Notre Dame calls, the Pac-12 is picking up the phone and sending them an invite. But, unfortunately, at the time at least, BYU isn’t Notre Dame, so they weren’t big enough to overcome it.
Then Utah came on the scene, and BYU’s Pac-12 chances were effectively dead, there was no use to go against the Pac-12 mold. With Utah you get that same Salt Lake City market, you’ll still get a Pac-12 team in the Holy War, and Utah was at the same place football program-wise as BYU. With Colorado they got a built in geographical rivalry, and a Mountain time zone game every week. Utah just came with all the pros and none of BYU’s cons.
BYU Moves On
Despite BYU playing a third of all their games the last three non-pandemic seasons, BYU had to know they weren’t getting into the Pac-12 anytime soon, then a door opened. When Texas and Oklahoma left for the SEC it looked like there was going to be widespread expansion, with a bunch of Big 12 schools joining BYU in attempting to make a move to the Pac-12. After all, with new commissioner George Kliavkoff there was a feeling the Pac-12 could become serious about sports, and make an expansion move finally. Then they decided to stay unserious about sports, and reject a bunch of Big 12 schools, and BYU once again.
So, the Big 12 decided to be the serious one, and add BYU along with Houston, UCF, and Cincinnati. It’s a big step for BYU, and a huge boost for their program. their solid basketball program now gets to play in the best conference in the nation. They have been a very good football program for decades, and have already been a good partner for the Big 12 rearranging their schedule, and volunteering to play later games to open up a time slot for the Big 12. I’d bet their rabid fanbase will mesh well with Big 12 fans, and will bring a great road trip to traveling Big 12 fans.
The Pac-12 In Collapse
Then, on June 30th, the Pac-12’s landscape was completely changed, when it was reported USC and UCLA were making the move to the Big Ten. It’s a move that puts the Pac-12 on life support, and very much looks like the Big 12 may get the chance to pull the plug. The Pac-12 is in a predicament; they have no one near them that’s a viable big name. Sure there was one national school, BYU, that’s in their region, but the Pac-12 missed their chance, and the Cougars opted for greener pastures in the Big 12 already. Maybe the Texas market that the Pac-12 rejected just last year? Well Baylor, TCU, and Texas Tech ain’t leaving for a weaker conference that told them to pound sand just last year. Houston would’ve been an option a year ago, but the Big 12 snatched them up. Sure, there’s SMU but if the Pac-12 wouldn’t hold their nose for a religious school before, imagine a smaller one with the death penalty stigma.
Now the Big 12 has been on the ropes for a dozen years, the Pac-12, Big Ten, and SEC have all poached the Big 12. Heck even the American tried to poach the Big 12, which went great for them I might add. Only the ACC hasn’t tried to rip apart the Big 12…for now (Cincinnati, and West Virginia). The Big 12 always sadly seemed the most vulnerable to fall of the power conferences, not because the schools, but it’s location led it to being poached by everyone. After the Big 12 has somehow been on life support for 12 years now, the nurse tried to smother it with the pillow just last summer, but it made moves and added 4 great new schools, none I’d argue bigger than BYU. Now it’s the conference that decided to date not marry them for a dozen years that looks to be dying out, and it’s the Big 12, who they tried to poach twice and denied poaching just last summer, that looks to be a dead man walking. Oregon, and Washington will be okay, and my guess is the Arizona schools, Colorado, and Utah will be as well. But there’s some schools left that are essentially a dead body with the conference, and it’s BYU and the Big 12 sitting in a comfortable position to watch, and finish them off.