"That’s right. It’s hard to turn down an offer when one hasn’t been extended.".
The reason this is not newsworthy, is because it's double-talk. It may be true that BYU didn't receive an offer and didn't turn down an offer. However, BYU won't receive an offer until all the negotiating points are worked out and the Big 12 is certain they will accept it. Now there are rumors of the Big East possibly looking to add BYU and the negotiating starts again.
So, the real question is "What is keeping BYU from coming to an agreement with a BCS conference?". Let's look at the factors. (Note that I compare often to Utah, since they just made a jump to a BCS conference, and for the past 10 years have had very similar football success to BYU, if not slightly better).
While BYU never talks about money -- and always says it is about "exposure" -- money matters. Would BYU make more money as an independent or as a member of the Big 12 or Big East?
BYU's TV revenue this year is estimated at about $10 million. In addition, BYU gets to keep all bowl revenue. As a comparison, BYU made $2 million last year in the MWC.
Big 12 TV revenues are estimated at about $15-17 million per year per team and expected to grow substantially when the ABC/ESPN deal comes up for renewal in 2016.
Big East TV revenues are estimated at about $7-10 million per year per team, but also are expected to grow substantially when their contract comes up for renewal in 2014.
Seems like a clear increase in revenues for the Big 12. Well, that's true in the long run, but not necessarily in the short run. According to the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, TCU receives 50% the first year ($8M), 67% the 2nd year ($11M), 84% the 3rd year ($13M), and 100% the 4th year ($16M).
In the first 4 years, TCU will make an estimated $48M. BYU, as an independent in the next four years, will make an estimated $40M. Utah got accepted to the Pac-12, but won't receive any revenue this year, and won't be full revenue until the 4th year.
For Utah and TCU, the finances are a no-brainer, because the MWC was only paying $2 million. For BYU, the finances are not as overwhelming, although still very enticing in the long run.
Besides the greater revenues, the main reason BYU went independent was for increased national TV exposure on the ESPN networks, along with the ability to broadcast other games nationally on BYUtv. The ability to re-broadcast all games on BYUtv was an added bonus. The TV arrangement has been one of the great successes of BYU's first year in independence, as 11 of BYU's 12 games are on live, national TV.
In contrast, in Utah's first year in the Pac-12, only 2 games are on national TV and both are due to the opponents' TV contracts (BYU, Pitt). Utah has various games on Fox Sports regional network, but three games are on Utah-only TV (KJZZ). Once you are in a conference, the TV rights are relinquished, and you have no control.
In negotiating TV rights with a conference, BYU will want to maintain national exposure, and the ability to broadcast games on BYUtv that are not picked up by the national TV partners, as well as the ability to rebroadcast games. This is not a minor point for BYU administrators, and shouldn't be minor for BYU fans that are outside of Utah. Hundreds of thousands more BYU fans have had access this year to live broadcasts of BYU games, whether on an ESPN channel, or via rebroadcasts on BYUtv nationally, internationally and online. National broadcasts are pretty much guaranteed to drop if BYU joins a conference.
Will the thousands of BYU fans in California be happy if BYU plays Oklahoma and they can't see it? This could happen if the game were on Fox Sports Regional channels, but Fox Sports Pacific chooses to show USC-Washington at the same time.
As we've seen with Utah's move to the Pac-12, the competition in a BCS conference week-in and week-out is much stiffer. After an 0-4 start in conference play, and a serious risk of not becoming bowl eligible, Utah fans are left wondering how good of a move it was.
How would BYU fare in the Big 12? It's very difficult to judge this, but we'll just take one measurement to see how they would rank in past years. Taking the ranking composite (computer and humans) from this web site, we'll see how BYU would rank in the Big 12 and Big East in each of the last 10 years:
|Year||BYU national rank||BYU rank among Big 12 teams||Record of Big 12 team in that place||BYU rank among Big East teams||Record of Big East team in that place|
As Utah has discovered, the weekly grind in a BCS conference can take a toll and turn into more losses than expected. While BYU fans are used to 2-3 losses per year and a bowl game, in the Big 12 or Big East, it would more likely be 4-7 losses per year, with no bowl game every third year.
The Big 12 and the Big East champions have an automatic bid to a BCS bowl, so on the surface, it seems that if BYU were in the Big 12 or Big East, it would have better access to the BCS. This is only true, however, if BYU wins the conference. From the statistics above, in the last 10 years, BYU has never ranked above the Big 12 nor the Big East champion in any year. It is possible that BYU would never win the Big 12 or Big East conference and get the automatic bid to a BCS game. For example, Oklahoma State has never won the Big 12 and never gone to a BCS game, even though they have had a really nice program for many years.
In contrast, Utah, TCU and Boise State all went to multiple BCS bowl games from non-AQ conferences. Most observers would say it's actually easier to get to a BCS bowl from a non-AQ conference than from a BCS conference. I'd be willing to bet that neither Utah nor TCU will make a BCS bowl in the next 10 years, due to the increased competition in their schedules.
So, BYU would technically have greater BCS access, but in reality would rarely, if ever, make a BCS bowl as a member of the Big 12 or Big East. As long as Notre Dame stays independent, there will always be some way for an independent to get to a BCS bowl. If Notre Dame joins a conference, BYU should jump on board really quick.
There have been reports that the Big 12 TV partners weren't happy with BYU's no Sunday rule. TV partners want the option to show a basketball championship game, for example, on Sunday. BYU will also want to avoid games on Conference Saturday in October. These two demands may be the main thing that keeps them out of every major conference. Remember, TV pays the bills, so TV wants to decide when games are played. This is why BYU's deal with ESPN is so unique.
Of course, the scheduling nightmares of being independent are immediately resolved by joining a conference. Meaningful games in November are built-in.
One argument fans always bring up in these debates is, "If we are in a BCS conference, we will get better recruits". This can be debated for years (and has been). There is no way to know this, but I don't believe going to the Big 12 or Big East would change much. BYU already has a very limited recruiting pool, due to the honor code. When BYU loses a recruit, more often than not, it's to a Pac-12 team. In fact, over the past 5 years, when BYU has lost a recruit that it offered a scholarship to, 55% of the time the recruit chose Utah or another Pac-12 school. BYU recruits chose Big 12 teams only 9% of the time. The reason for this is that most BYU recruits are LDS kids from the western U.S. They have grown up in Utah or Pac-12 areas and have followed Pac-12 teams. If BYU were to join the Pac-12, recruiting may improve, but going to the Big 12 or Big East vs. Independence...I'd say it's a wash. Again, very debatable and impossible to predict.
Be careful what you wish for. While there may be more money in the Big 12 or a future Big East, it's very likely that national TV exposure, wins, and BCS bowls could be harder to come by. As it stands right now, Independence looks like a perfect fit for BYU football.