PROVO — For months, BYU has been regarded as one the Big 12's top candidates to replace Texas A&M, which will move to the Southeastern Conference next year. Numerous reputable national news outlets reported that BYU was either the league's No. 1 choice, or at least high on the Big 12's list.
Even Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds told The Associated Press a couple of weeks ago that the league was considering the Cougars to fill the void created by Texas A&M.
But on Thursday, it was TCU — not BYU — that received an invitation to join the Big 12.
And there's a report that if the Big 12 decides to add more new members, should Missouri bolt to the Southeastern Conference, that the league will target Louisville — not BYU.
Thursday's developments raised a number of questions. Did BYU turn down an invitation from the Big 12? Did the Cougars ever receive an invitation to the Big 12? Is an invitation pending? Did negotiations between BYU and the Big 12 hit a wall? Or has the Big 12 decided against inviting BYU altogether?
BYU officials didn't provide any clarity to this nebulous scenario. When contacted by the Deseret News about the Big 12 situation, BYU associate athletic director of communications Duff Tittle said, "Nothing has changed in our approach since we released our statement several weeks ago."
That statement said that the school would not comment on speculation and conjecture because it "is not productive and creates a distraction for our program. As we enter the 2011-12 athletic season, BYU is focused on the opportunities ahead. We are excited about our relationship with ESPN as a football independent and our affiliation with the West Coast Conference. The university will have no further comment."
TCU is currently a member of the Mountain West Conference and was scheduled to join the Big East next year. Instead, it will become a member of the Big 12 in 2012. The Horned Frogs will be forced to pay a $5 million exit fee but will not be subjected to the Big East's 27-month requirement for departure notification.
Not long ago, TCU was not regarded as a viable candidate for the Big 12 because Texas reportedly did not want to invite another school from the Lone Star state. If that was the case, then, obviously, the Longhorns experienced a change of heart.
"We're proud that TCU has been invited to join the Big 12," Texas' Dodds said in a statement. "Their commitment to academics and success on the field make them an excellent fit. With a solid budget and strong financial support, they have been proactive at improving facilities. Their close proximity to all conference institutions makes for a comfortable travel situation."
Oklahoma president David Boren also released a statement in support of TCU being invited to join the Big 12. He hinted that the Big 12 may not be done adding schools.
"TCU is an excellent choice as a new member of the conference," Boren said in a statement. "They bring strong athletics and academic credentials and were enthusiastically and unanimously supported by all of the members of the conference. There could be other additions in the future."
Could one of those additions be BYU? There are conflicting reports circulating on the Internet.
CBSSports.com reported that if Missouri remains in the Big 12, the league would likely stay at 10 members, including TCU. But if the Tigers jump to the SEC, and it's been reported that they don't have unanimous support from the SEC, the Big 12 could add three schools to get back to 12 members.
"The leading candidates would be Louisville, BYU, West Virginia, Cincinnati and Tulane," according to CBSSports.com's Brett McMurphy.
Tulsa World sports columnist Dave Sittler reported via Twitter that, according to a Big 12 source, "BYU still on list (of Big 12 candidates), but there are some complications."
Meanwhile, Chris Level of RedRaiderSports.com, tweeted: "Big 12 Presidents took BYU off their list last week (not sure why) … If Missouri leaves it'll be Louisville."
Pete Thamel of the New York Times tweeted that the Big 12 is awaiting a decision from Missouri, then will decide whether to add one more school, and that BYU, Louisville and West Virginia are "in play."
Also on Thursday, the Big 12 Conference Board of Directors agreed to a formal grant of television rights for a minimum of six years. The approval by the Board was unanimous, although Missouri did not participate in the vote on the advice of legal counsel.
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