Friday, September 2, 2011

Conference Hokey-Pokey™: BYU?

Lots of Big 12 expansion candidates have been tossed around in the media this week. All the talk is about how well the football programs would fit in with the Big 12, and then some talk about basketball.

But enough with those minor sports. What about baseball?

Today we'll begin taking a look at the most frequently mentioned, rumored and fantasized candidates, in terms of their baseball programs.

Brigham Young University:

  • BYU would certainly stretch the footprint of the Big 12, bringing in fans from western states as well as some Mormon fans elsewhere. BYU Baseball was 130th in RPI in 2011, and has averaged. Neither is likely to represent a huge market, but would be a new market for the conference.

  • BYU Baseball has been up and down and all over the place since 2000. Their average season RPI ranking for 2000-2011 is 122nd. That compares to Mizzou's average ranking of 63rd.

    Their final RPI rankings (
    2011: 130th
    2010: 103rd
    2009: 62nd
    2008: 219th
    2007: 80th
    2006: 153rd
    2005: 117th
    2004: 210th
    2003: 101st
    2002: 112th
    2001: 59th
    2000: 124th
  • During most of those years, BYU played in the Mountain West Conference. BYU's strength of schedule would receive a boost just by virtue of playing a full conference schedule in the Big 12 rather than the MWC.

  • Interestingly, BYU just got though jumping from the MWC to the West Coast Conference, taking effect in July 2011. Based on Boyd's Conference RPI rankings, the big 12 would still mean a boost in Strength of Schedule, and thus a potential boost in RPI, for the Cougars.

  • BYU has been to the NCAA regionals twice since 2000. In 2001 they went 2-and-out, losing to Northern Iowa and Rutgers. In 2002 they went 2-2, defeating Cal Northridge and Maine, but losing their first and last games to Southern Cal.

  • It's impossible to say whether BYU baseball would step up to the challenge and the increased SoS and become competitive in the Big 12, or whether they would find themselves perennial also-rans. Their recruiting might also get a boost if they're playing in the Big 12, which could help them to compete.

  • BYU has produced some recognizable names that have gone on to MLB careers, including Rick Aguilera, Dane Iorg, Wally Joyner, Vance Law, Cory Snyder, and Jack Morris.

  • Former major leaguer Vance Law is the the Cougars' current Head Coach (since 2000)
Big 12 Expansion Targets (Tulsa World)
Why: Finally gives BYU big-time conference (read: BCS) access. National brand for Big 12. Solid and colorful football tradition in WAC and recent success in MWC. Salt Lake City TV market. Built-in fanbase of more than 14 million Mormons worldwide. Just starting independent status (in football) so Big 12 could avoid "raider" label. TV network already in place.

Why not: Travel costs prohibitive. Potential fundamentalist conflicts with Baylor.

Chances: 65 percent
The only question is whether BYU is actually better off playing its regular seasons on the fringes. Which is better for a program like BYU? To try to schedule the nonconference as well as possible, then dominate the WCC on the way to a stockpile of wins and consistent NCAA tournament berths? Or is it better to fight tooth and nail with the big dogs in the Big 12? The former option -- thanks to the temerity of high-major teams in scheduling quality mid-major foes -- is more limited. But the latter option -- thanks to the unique challenges of recruiting at a place like BYU -- might be far more difficult.

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