The third university going into the Big 12 in 2023 is a currently independent (at least in football) religiously affiliated school with national reach and a national championship. No, it’s not Notre Dame. It’s Brigham Young University.
Meet BYU’s western blue-sport cougars. And if you missed it, go back and read our guides to Houston and Cincinnati.
Location: Provo, Utah
School type: Private
Founding year: 1875
Enrollment in undergraduate studies: 33,365
BYU has a rich football history dating back 97 years and includes a national championship (1984), a Heisman winner (Ty Detmer 1990) and an overall record of 603-431-26. The Cougars have also won 23 conference championships — although they’ve been independent since 2010 — and played 39 bowl games, of which they’ve won 16.
The 1984 title team was BYU’s only undefeated season, beating No. 3 Pittsburgh 13-0 early in the season and then beating Michigan in the Holiday Bowl. But the Cougars had many great years. BYU has lost just six times, most recently in 2020 when it lost only to Coastal Carolina, 11-1, which ranked 14th in the AP poll. One of those other one-loss teams was the year before the undefeated title when the 83 Cougars went 11-1 and were led by a quarterback named Steve Young.
Young is one of 156 BYU players to have played professionally and 153 to have been drafted.
Soccer in 2022
The Cougars are coming off a 10-3 season in 2021 in Kalani Sitake’s sixth year at the helm. The season ended in a 31-28 loss to UAB in the Independence Bowl, but BYU still ranked 19th in the most recent AP poll. Like Houston, BYU’s offense has been one of the most dominant in the nation, averaging 33.1 points per game, good for a 29th-best finish.
Quarterback Jaren Hall is back for another year to build on his 2,500-yard, 20-TD and five-interception campaign. But the loss comes in the backfield without Tyler Allgeier, who rushed for 2,899 career yards and 36 touchdowns before being drafted by the Atlanta Falcons. But Hall will have four of his five linemen and two of his top receivers back as of 2021. But it’s defense where BYU will be dangerous. The Cougars have 11 starters back and 90 percent of their production from last year, making 208 combined starts.
All of this is to mean that BYU should be very competitive in its final year as an independent company.
Why they were chosen
The football pedigree is there, even if it wasn’t in a traditional performance league. But the Big 12 wouldn’t get those players. Most of the power five moves have been made. And BYU has also proven competitive in basketball and other sports — though not at the level of soccer.
This is also a national brand due to its religious affiliation. It’s not on the par of Notre Dame, but coupled with a living alumni base of nearly 500,000 across the country — including nearly 20,000 in Texas — BYU also has a broad audience of those associated with the Church of Saints Last days connected roots for his teams. So, as BYU expands the conference’s footprint westward, it’s less about targeting a single market or region (like Houston or Cincinnati) and more about turning attention to the US.
The conference has to sidestep the policy of non-Sunday activities, but the benefits outweigh the conflicts there.