By Kurt Johnson
Photo courtesy Mark A. Philbrick, BYU Photo
At the risk of feeding the frenzy that keeps cropping up every time the Big 12 hints that it might consider expansion, I can’t help but compare the current status of that discussion with my recent mostly hate relationship with the job board at the local school in the middle of this debate – Brigham Young University.
What happens with the conference status at BYU has no direct link to our primary coverage area, high school sports, but because of the potential impact on the recruiting of high school athletes, I decided to weigh in.
More than once over the past few months I have logged on to employment websites, including the BYU site, to see what kind of jobs are available. Here and there, I have found positions whose list of qualifications read almost like they took it from my resume. Then, the application process did not go as I expected and the hiring manager went with someone whose resume didn’t come close to matching the job description.
My advice to BYU fans, not that they care what I think or that they don’t know this already, is that it’s often not about the resume. If and when the Big 12 gets around to actually adding schools into its conference, the criteria its leadership will use is anyone’s guess.
Since the conference has taken the unique approach of essentially announcing that it is taking applications for the position of new conference member, the comparison to Indeed or any other employment website seems appropriate. The conference will now receive applications from interested schools all over the country, with each making its best case for inclusion.
If it was all about the past, the resume, it would be hard for anyone to suggest that any of the perceived front-runners – Houston, Cincinnati, Memphis, Connecticut, Central Florida and more – has a more developed and successful athletic program that the one Tom Holmoe oversees in Provo. That seems true if you are looking just at football and men’s basketball, but it’s even more apparent when you take in all of the Olympic sports.
BYU has invested in its programs at a P5 level when it comes to game and practice facilities and it has a large fan base that extends far beyond the Salt Lake TV market. It draws large crowds to home games and its fans travel well, not just for the football team. The actual BYU resume is strong and that may get it done, but no one really knows.
It’s obvious, when you see the varied opinions of both in-state and national pundits, that everyone looks at this differently. This process could come down to any one of a number of factors, just like any hiring process.
Judging from public reports, it appears that the University of Houston is set to play the “it’s about who you know” card and utilize certain political pressure to get a leg up. Will that work? Who knows? It often works in the employment process.
Some believe that it’s all about geography and trying to find a friend or two in West Virginia’s neighborhood to keep the Mountaineers happy. If that is the most important thing in the mind of the decision maker, resume won’t matter and spreading out even more by heading west could be a deal-breaker.
If you ignore the fact that BYU has somewhat of a national fan base, if the focus is on picking up additional TV markets, other teams come into focus. Or, it could be that the powers that be really believe that a potential powerful future partnership with a corporation like Federal Express, who hasn’t really invested in Memphis football up to now, but might step up, could allow that program to become elite in the future. They might decide to hire on potential.
Focus on Perceived Negatives
The other things you hear as it relates to BYU are the perceived concerns with the Cougars, beginning with the “hard to deal with” issue that may or may not have any legs. Like a hiring manager who might presume someone was “over-qualified” or “not a great fit” or any of the other factors we might use to discount actual experience in the hiring process, these are things that divert the decision makers from the resume and there are many that could come into play as the Big 12 makes its decisions.
The one I really don’t understand personally is the Sunday play argument. The only two sports where Big 12 TV partners would seem to come into the picture on this are football and men’s basketball, and neither of those sports currently requires Sunday play in that conference. It’s men’s basketball tournament already ends on Saturday.
There are sports whose Big 12 conference tournaments and some regular-season contests currently take place on Sunday, but are those really insurmountable issues. You might have to change one baseball or softball three-game series each year to play a Saturday doubleheader instead of a Sunday game, but you could offset some of that that with a few more butts in the seats at that home game if BYU teams draw as they normally do.
Another factor some mention is that the Big 12 doesn’t want another Longhorn Network situation. Those who bring this up clearly don’t know what BYU TV is.
The Longhorn Network is a full-time University of Texas sports network subsidized by ESPN. BYU TV is a regular TV network that is an extension of the school’s school of broadcasting. It partners with ESPN (and other networks) to provide its broadcast facilities in support of their efforts, but while its programming mix includes BYU sports, it is not a sports network.
BYU TV currently broadcasts most of the men’s and women’s West Coast Conference basketball tournaments and it seems it could add a significant volume of Big 12 sports programming to its lineup if the conference and BYU desired to do so. Since a Big 12 Network seems to be off the table, BYU TV could be an asset in negotiations between the parties.
One thing BYU can’t change is geography, so if that becomes the driving force behind expansion, it is out of the school’s hands. I do have to ask, however – once you get on the plane, does it really matter how far you are traveling? It’s 2016, not 1920.
Actually, other than presenting itself and focusing on its resume and its positives, this whole thing is ultimately out of BYU’s hands. Like it is in any hiring decision, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and this decision belongs to the power brokers of the Big 12 Conference.