PROVO — With the whirlwind reports swirling around the Big 12 expansion, and BYU at the top of that list, a lot of focus has been on when the Cougars could depart its current state of football independence for the conference.
As an FBS independent, BYU football is not required to notify anyone or pay an exit fee in order to depart for another conference. Still, the Cougars have game contracts through the 2035 season — including more than three per year through 2028 — as well as an exclusive television contract with ESPN through the 2026 season.
The Cougars, along with Cincinnati, Houston and UCF, are expected to receive an invitation to the Big 12 on Friday, according to several reports, both local and national.
But beyond football, BYU also has a relationship with the West Coast Conference, a 10-team league of mostly religious and private institutions based in California, Oregon and Washington. And while that league doesn't require its schools the same notification or heavy exit fee as other conferences like the American Athletic Conference — which will require a $10 million fee and 27-months' notice to Cincinnati, Houston and UCF for departing and joining the Cougars in the Big 12 — there are still conference bylaws to be followed.
BYU needs to give the WCC 24 months' notice before the next fiscal year to withdraw without penalty, as first reported by The Athletic's Nicole Auerbach:
- Any notice given between 12-24 months requires a $500,000 exit fee.
- Any notice less than 12 months requires a $1 million fee.
Clarity on the BYU-WCC exit fee situation per source:— Nicole Auerbach (@NicoleAuerbach) September 9, 2021
BYU would need to give WCC notice 24 months before the fiscal year in which withdrawal is effective to avoid payment.
If notice is between 12-24 months, they pay $500k.
If notice is less than 12 months, they pay $1 million.
While the Cougars could certainly negotiate the ends of that bylaw, it also seems unlikely that BYU would depart the WCC before the end of the 2022-23 season. The Cougars also have the most complete schedules in 2022 and 2023, while future games such as the 2024 date with UCF could be folded into conference play.
The Big 12 is expecting — or at least hopeful — that the four schools will join in 2023, giving them two years as a 14-team conference before Texas and Oklahoma depart.
Several reports indicate that additional expansion candidates, including Boise State, South Florida and Memphis, could join the league after that point, as well.
In what sports would BYU join the Big 12?
BYU joined the West Coast Conference ahead of the 2011-12 season, at which time the Cougars competed alongside Gonzaga, Saint Mary's and the rest of the league in men's and women's basketball, baseball, cross country, golf, tennis, women's volleyball and women's soccer.
The league also added softball in 2013, forming a six-team league of WCC schools that included several schools playing at the time in the Pacific Coast Softball Conference. The Cougars have won 12 consecutive WCC titles in the sport.
Other sports BYU offers that are also sponsored by the Big 12 include women's gymnastics, which currently competes in the four-team Mountain Rim Gymnastics Conference; men's and women's swimming and diving, which currently compete in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation; and men's and women's track and field.
BYU's nationally renowned men's volleyball team would likely remain in the MPSF, which is also home to UCLA, USC, Concordia Irvine, Pepperdine and Stanford. The Cardinal recently reinstated the sport after initially deciding to cancel it in 2020. The Big 12 does not sponsor men's volleyball.
The Big 12 also sponsors equestrian and wrestling, two sports that BYU does not sponsor.
Meanwhile, the Cougars still have a season to play in the WCC — a season that became a little more clear.
Cougars, Wolverines finalize 'crosstown clash' in Orem
BYU will play crosstown rival Utah Valley on Wednesday, Dec. 1 at the UCCU Center in Orem, the Wolverines announced Thursday.
It's the second time in the series' history that BYU will visit the Orem campus five miles up the road on University Parkway. The Cougars rolled to an 85-58 win over Utah Valley on Nov. 29, 2017 in a sold-out UCCU Center.
BYU is 4-1 all-time against Utah Valley.
The Cougars' nonconference schedule also includes a road trip Nov. 27 to face Utah in the Huntsman Center, a neutral-site tip Dec. 11 with Creighton in the Sanfod Pentagon in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Classic, where they are favored against a field that includes Liberty, Northern Iowa, Wyoming, Stanford, Hawaii and Vanderbilt from Dec. 22-25.
BYU begins WCC play Jan. 1 against Portland. The Cougars' 16-game conference slate includes Jan. 8 and Feb. 19 against Saint Mary's, and Jan. 13 and Feb. 5 against Gonzaga.