The all-consuming story of Big East expansion and future media rights deals took a bizarre turn today as it was reported, using anonymous sources of course, on the BYU oriented blog Deep Shades of Blue that the Big East at least unofficially reached out to BYU to see if it would be interested in joining the conference as a football playing member only. According to the site:
In recent days a rumor has also surfaced regarding BYU potentially joining the Big East Conference. Deep Shades of Blue has learned that the conference did indeed contact BYU about becoming a football-only member, but that the proposal was turned down by the BYU administration.
Big East programs have been among the many schools that have been talking to BYU about future games.
Little is know about this blog and there's almost no way you can give credence to it without some additional confirmation. So, take the claim for exactly what it's worth. At this point - nothing.
While there's little to go on in the rumor, I can see the logic behind the Big East at least researching BYU as a football only member. I can also conceive of BYU at least giving the offer some consideration. There's no question, based on recent comments by West Virginia Athletic Director Oliver Luck and others, that in preparation for the negotiation of a new media rights deal after the 2012 season, the Big East is researching ways to get to 12 football playing members without expanding to an unreasonably large number of basketball playing members.
It has been reported previously that the Big East is confident it could handle scheduling for 18 basketball teams. That being the case, it's at least conceivable that the Big East reached out to BYU about playing football in the conference because the Cougars would not impact basketball, and with nine current football playing members as of 2012, adding BYU, Villanova, and just one full new member would give the Big East the ideal combination of a 12/18 football/basketball split. This, of course, would allow the conference to host a championship game in football and more importantly, have the additional inventory of football games in its back pocket when it comes time to renegotiate the broadcast rights contract. BYU would also benefit from such a deal because it would have BCS access as a member of the Big East
Do I really think that the Big East approached BYU about football-only membership? Not really. If anything, the conference made the most informal of overtures in an effort to explore all of its options. If it did happen, however, I take it as an encouraging sign that the conference brass is serious about quality football expansion and maximizing its value for the next media rights deal and is trying to be creative in doing so. The next six weeks should finally put the question of Villanova to bed. After that, I guess it's back to speculation like this.