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PROVO — The groundswell of support for the Big 12 to invite BYU now includes a harsh critic of the football program dating back three decades.
Speaking on satellite radio, Barry Switzer believes BYU is probably the best available option if the Big 12 decides to expand from 10 to 12 conference members. The former Oklahoma coach made national headlines for criticizing BYU’s national championship during the 1984 season.
In this case, Switzer has plenty of company in calling for the Big 12 to look west for expansion. Several national media members and some within the conference’s footprint concur that BYU offers the most among the candidates.
“The currency of college football has always been tradition, it’s history, and that remains the base. BYU has that in spades — great history, great tradition,” said longtime college broadcaster Tim Brando, who now works with Fox Sports.
“BYU’s alumni base is global. Its history and tradition in college football is massive. Its level of support for its football program has always been through the roof. They have a brand that is unlike any of the brothers that are potentially out there.”
Few could argue that the other possibilities most often mentioned — Cincinnati, Connecticut, Memphis and Houston are among them — have historically better football programs than BYU. Using football attendance as one obvious barometer, BYU outpaces the other universities by tens of thousands. By any metric, BYU football is big time.
So what’s the problem?
Not all Big 12 members are united on expansion. Reports continue to surface that not even officials from individual universities can agree on the matter.
Oklahoma President David Boren has been a proponent of expansion, saying the Big 12 also needs its own television network to keep pace with other Power 5 conferences. But various reports have indicated not all of the Oklahoma board of regents support adding at least two teams.
The Big 12, which didn’t get a team into the first four-team football playoff in 2014 but did last season, simply may not believe expansion is financially worth it. Brando is among many who don’t foresee the conference adding teams.
There’s also the line of thought that the Big 12 wouldn’t invite BYU if expansion happens. The theory is the conference would have already offered BYU if it wanted to include the LDS-sponsored institution.
Geography and religion are among other issues that could hinder BYU’s chances.
Having already expanded to include West Virginia and Texas Christian, the Big 12 may look for a better fit geographically. Although Texas to Utah is not any longer than Texas to West Virginia, increased travel for the Olympic sports might be too much to overcome for BYU.
Sunday play also always is an issue for any conference interested in BYU, again as it pertains to other sports besides football and probably basketball. Although BYU has no problem with its athletic teams and other personnel traveling on Sundays, the university won’t allow any competition on that day.
“As long as there is due diligence given on the part of Brigham Young University to acquiesce and become accommodating in other areas for the benefit of the league, you can get past the Sunday issue,” Brando said. “If we can’t, what kind of world are we living in?”
CBS Sports writer Dennis Dodd also brings up another potential roadblock, saying some Big 12 members would not want to add a third religious school to join TCU and Baylor. He has said it could be a problem to have these schools vote in unison on certain issues.
At best, Dodd’s point seems to be a reach.
“A lot of this conversation that’s out there is not really warranted,” Brando said. “It’s because it’s a dead time of year. There’s not a lot going on.”
Give the 78-year-old Switzer credit for speaking the truth. Although he hasn’t coached in college football for 28 years, Switzer still gets what’s best for the Big 12.
For a conference that was on shaky ground a few years ago, when Missouri and Texas A&M left to join the Southeastern Conference, expansion is necessary for stability and a better chance to consistently get into the football playoff. And there’s no better choice than BYU.