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Reports: Big 12 presidents to ‘rubber stamp’ membership for BYU and others Friday

After more than a decade as a football independent, the Cougars are expected to join UCF, Cincinnati and Houston as conference members

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) BYU athletics director Tom Holmoe listens in on live TV interviews during BYU Football Media Day in June. After more than a decade as a football independent, BYU is expected to be approved for membership into the Big 12 Conference.

After more than a decade of football independence, BYU appears to be on the doorstep of its new home.

The Big 12 presidents are scheduled to vote Friday morning on bringing BYU, UCF, Cincinnati and Houston into the league, according to a Yahoo report.

“The vote is largely considered a formality,” Yahoo’s Pete Thamel reports.

The meeting would “rubber stamp” invitations for BYU and the other three schools, CBS Sports reported.

News of the conference’s interest in adding new members has trickled out in the months since college football powerhouses Texas and Oklahoma in July announced their intention to leave the Big 12 for the SEC. That trickle has turned into a deluge in recent days, with conference officials moving more quickly than anticipated in shoring up membership.

Over the past week, UCF, Cincinnati and Houston have reportedly submitted formal applications to join the Big 12.

If Friday’s vote goes as expected, BYU will at long last have a Power Five home among Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, TCU, Texas Tech, West Virginia, and the conference’s three other incoming members.

Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy was one voice publicly supporting BYU in recent days.

“Coast to coast, people see BYU as a Power Five team. That logo. You would, too, right?” Gundy said earlier this week. “If you see that logo, people don’t really know that they’re an independent. People think they’re tied into a Power Five conference.”

One ESPN analyst called BYU “the most obvious” addition for the Big 12.

“It has a proud history and recent success in football, a national fan base and minimal red tape to cut through as an independent without a conference to leave,” ESPN’s Kyle Bonagura wrote Wednesday. “It fits geographically, and the religious component — which is widely understood to be a road block for Pac-12 membership -- isn’t an issue in a conference with Baylor and TCU.”

Because of its independent status, however, BYU may be able to join the Big 12 as soon as 2022, according to reports. The other three incoming schools would likely have to wait until 2023 or 2024 before they are able to leave the American Athletic Conference without financial penalty. Texas and Oklahoma, for the same reason, have stated their intention to remain in the Big 12 until 2025.

BYU left the Mountain West Conference in September 2010, looking for a better landing spot. During its decade-plus of football independence, with its other sports playing in the West Coast Conference, BYU officials made it no secret they were searching for a Power 5 home.

The Cougars were “very close” to receiving a Power Five invite in 2016, athletics director Tom Holmoe said.

“We would have loved to have been [invited] to a Power Five conference,” Holmoe said at the time. “That’s where the best games are played. That’s where the best championships are played. They advance to the best bowl games. There is no question that is the ultimate for college football. … We made a venture to go independent to get to that point. We were very close, but it just didn’t happen.”

In the years since, Holmoe and the Cougars have not wavered in their publicly stated goal of finding that conference home.

Now, it appears, BYU is about to walk through the door.

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