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Big East is still eyeing independent BYU, apparently

Published September 19, 2012 11:32 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

It is time to fire up speculation that BYU could join the Big East in the near future?The topic is in the news again, what with ESPN college football writer Brett McMurphy — one of the best in the business, by the way — reporting today on the ESPN website that the Big East "is divided over whether to pursue Air Force or BYU as its 14th football member, while another option the conference is considering is creating a 16-team football league by adding Army, Air Force and BYU, industry and league sources told ESPN." The entire article is interesting, but one especially noteworthy point is that McMurphy reports that the eight-year deal BYU has with ESPN is worth nearly $4 million a year. It's the first time I've seen a relatively concrete dollar figure on what BYU gets from ESPN, and it is lower than my sources at BYU have said. Maybe that's the minimum amount, per year. Generally, I've been told that ESPN pays BYU a little more than $1 million for every home football game it broadcasts on one of its platforms (ESPN2, ESPNU, etc.). Of course, one game per year (Weber State in 2012, for example) is given to BYUtv. Generally, there are going to be five or six BYU home football games a year picked up by ESPN, which would seemingly put the deal north of $6 million per year. Original reports and/or speculation when BYU went independent that BYU was receiving upwards of $8 million per year from ESPN appear to be high. So who knows?I've got no reason to doubt the McMurphy report regarding the Big East's continued interest in BYU. But the quote from a source that says "They'll crawl back once the TV deal is done," makes be believe that the Big East still doesn't fully understand that it isn't entirely about money for BYU. (I'm assuming that the "they" the source is referring to is BYU). I'm pretty convinced that it always has been, and always will be, more about exposure and home TV rights for BYU than money. Better access to the BCS (or the four-team playoff after 2013) is also a bigger priority than money, if BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe is to be believed. McMurphy correctly notes that: "BYU was close to joining the Big East last November, until the deal blew up essentially at the last minute when the Cougars refused to relinquish their home television rights. This issue would have to be resolved for BYU to have a chance to join the Big East." I'm thinking that if there is a network out there that would allow BYU to keep its home broadcast rights (read: BYUtv) and replay rights, it is ESPN. One more thing. I've listened to BYU football coach Bronco Mendenhall enough these past five years to know that he absolutely loves and respects the service academies — Air Force, Army and Navy. He wants nothing more than to schedule those schools in the future. The Big East adding military academies (Navy becomes its 13th member in 2015) might just be the carrot that gets BYU into the fold — assuming home TV rights comes with it.