So the new sexy Big East expansion story that's been floating around the interwebs over the last few days, is that the Big East approached the now independent BYU Cougars about joining the conference as a football-only member. The story broken by BYU blog Deep Shades of Blue in an article about upcoming opponents on Tuesday, and has since made its way around the internet.
There is a lot to be said about this rumor, between how BYU would fit in in the Big East, and what it means for Big East football that the Cougars reportedly turned the conference down.
Now, it's apparent that many aren't a fan of the geographic loosening of the Big "East" conference, between the expansion that brought us Cincinnati and Louisville, and the most recent induction of TCU to the conference. However, like TCU, in my opinion BYU fits the Big East's profile pretty well, aside from the whole "being in Utah" thing. They're a good academic, private school, and unlike many Big East schools, they have a HUGE national fan base. They also have a pretty solid program, and I think that they could definitely be a middle-of-the-pack Big East team more often then not.
I also give kudos to the much-maligned Big East leadership for reaching out to BYU, if this is true. It's an outside-the-box move, but something needs to be done to save the conference and keep it relevant. I'm not an economist, and I'm definitely not the right person to interpret the trends that we're seeing in these new television contracts, but it seems like the Big East is getting hosed by the other five BCS conferences, even the Big 12 which has been hemorrhaging members. Even BYU, as an independent, seems to be working a lucrative deal with ESPN.
In saying no to the Big East, BYU is effectively telling us that they will be able to make more money by itself, and that is not a good sign for the conference. This is coupled with the fact that BYU does not have an automatic BCS tie-in, like their Catholic counterpart Notre Dame does. The BCS bid should be a huge selling point for any mid-major looking to change conferences, but it apparently didn't sway BYU. Maybe winning a national championship isn't a big deal to the university, but I would venture to guess that if the PAC-10 came calling, BYU would pick up the phone.
This isn't a great story from the Big East perspective, even if you aren't a fan of bringing in non-Eastern schools to the conference, because it further shows what the national perception of the conference is. However the silver lining is that John Marinatto and company seem to be doing something about strengthening the football side. Getting to 12 schools, especially if it doesn't further engorge the Frankenstein of a basketball conference that we already have, should be the goal, and BYU would be a very nice addition towards meeting that goal.