What other Big 12 football coaches are saying about BYU’s transition to the conference

From big picture to immediate impact, Sonny Dykes, Steve Sarkisian and Matt Campbell weigh in on the Cougars.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) BYU head coach Kalani Sitake wraps up the first day of fall camp for the 2021 season on Thursday, Aug. 5, 2021.

Arlington, Texas • Sonny Dykes may be the newest member of the Big 12 coaching fraternity, but in many ways he is already its resident historian.

The son of Spike Dykes, the longtime head coach of Texas Tech, Dykes grew up around many of the current members of the league back when it was called the Southwest Conference. He tells stories of when Houston came into the conference during the 1970s and ran the table in year one. Or what made the old Texas teams successful.

And when he banks on that knowledge to evaluate BYU coming into the league, he acknowledges it will be a process of acclimation.

But he sees hope.

“I know this,” Dykes, the new TCU head coach, said. “If you surveyed all the coaches in college football and you said, ‘Who is your least favorite team to play?’ BYU is going to appear on pretty much everyone’s ballot. Those guys are big and strong and mature. So I think [BYU] is positioned to make the transition.”

Dykes comes at this discussion with a big-picture view, but many of his counterparts around the league have other thoughts about the conference’s newest member from Utah.

Some have looked at BYU’s addition as a strategic move that makes sense for the viability of the league. Others have evaluated the football readiness of the group.

Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy thinks BYU is an important addition to the monetary value of the conference. With the Big 12′s media rights contract expiring in 2025, Gundy’s main concern with new members would be their ability to bring in additional television ratings.

“We gathered a school from the Mountain Time Zone,” Gundy said of BYU. “We were very fortunate the four teams that we gathered to join this league are all going to rate well.”

Gundy says geography — and the distance between BYU and the majority of the conference — is less of a concern. In light of USC and UCLA moving to the Big Ten — where they will travel coast to coast to play games — it is less about where a school is located and more about filling a slot on television with the most enticing game for a network.

“It is all about grabbing some sort of viewership and television market now,” Gundy said, who would like to see the Big 12 continue to expand. “It is about hoping you can fit your games into time slots and hoping the three or four networks will buy into it.”

Iowa State coach Matt Campbell agreed with Gundy’s assessment of BYU’s addition. The most pressing issue for the conference will be the media rights contract. The amount of money out of that contract will determine the conference’s standing in the college football landscape.

Theoretically, BYU being in the late window of television gives the conference a wider reach and greater national appeal than the ACC and Pac-12.

“The decision Bob Bowlsby made a year ago to move [and add BYU] is pretty powerful right now,” Campbell said. “I think where we are today as a conference, we’re probably in a lot better shape than we were a year ago.”

Other coaches have looked at BYU as football fit for the conference. Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian, a former BYU quarterback, said this move will advance the program.

“That program has been through a little bit of an awkward change, from being in the Mountain West and the WAC to being independent to now finding a home here in the Big 12,” he said. “So I’m excited for BYU. I know a lot of the people at the university, and Kalani Sitake and I were teammates at BYU.”

But West Virginia coach Neal Brown cautioned success may come slower than you think.

“No, no,” Brown said of the transition for BYU. “The jump, coming into our league, is being able to be at your best week in and week out. Because if you are not, then you are going to get beat.

“That’s the thing that is really hard. There is no like, ‘Oh, we got them on our schedule. We can take a deep breath.’ That happens in some Group of Five conferences and that is not the case here. That, to me, is going to be the biggest challenge.”

Dykes, for his bigger-picture comments, believes BYU’s back-to-back 10-win seasons are a good indicator for a program deserving to be in a league. Maybe it won’t translate immediately, he said, but it shows the program can build the infrastructure to grow.

“They aren’t a flash in the pan,” Dykes said. “My guess is they will transition to the league quickly. … You have to give credit where credit is due. That is something I wanted people to do for us at SMU. Say, ‘look these guys have good players. These guys can go out there and beat anybody on any given Saturday.’ And [BYU] has already done that.”

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