BYU is angling to become a member of the Big 12 Conference, but on Monday, a new challenge presented itself to the Cougars’ candidacy.
Athlete Ally, a nonprofit organization that works to build connections between straight and LGBT athletes, posted a letter, signed by 26 different organizations including GLAAD and the National LGBTQ Taskforce, to Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby, criticizing the school for anti-LGBT policies.
We are writing to express our concerns about Brigham Young University’s (BYU) candidacy for Big 12 Conference membership. As organizations committed to ending homophobia, biphobia and transphobia both on and off the field of play, we are deeply troubled by this possibility. We feel it would be extremely problematic to include BYU in your conference expansion for the following reasons:
Adding BYU would be inconsistent with Big 12 Conference membership values.
The letter goes on to allege that Brigham Young University policies violate NCAA rules and Title IX.
The Big 12 is known for its dedication to its sports community (fans, coaches, staff and players, etc.) and its commitment to the welfare of its student-athletes. BYU’s membership to the Big 12 would jeopardize both. First, LGBT coaches, players and fans who attend and/or compete at any Big 12 events hosted at BYU would be subject to discrimination since BYU remains exempt from Utah’s LGBT nondiscrimination law. Moreover, any student-athlete who identifies as LGBT, and subsequently selects BYU due to its Big 12 membership, would be subjected to BYU’s unabashed discrimination. This would endanger the student-athlete’s NCAA eligibility and mental health. The Big 12’s sports community, especially its student athletes, deserve better than this.
BYU’s anti-LGBT policies violate both Big 12 guidelines and NCAA guidelines.
Bowlsby had a brief response to the letter this afternoon.
Thank you for your note. As we move forward with our processes we will certainly take your concerns into consideration. I appreciate your having taken the time to express your thoughts.
Shortly after Bowlsby’s statement, BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe tweeted that all members of the LGBT community are welcome to play and attend games at the school.
The Cougars have a strong football history, and a number of other top programs. However, it seems like other programs like Cincinnati and Houston have more support from the conference’s most influential programs, Oklahoma and Texas respectively.
The letter from Athlete Ally may not have a major impact on BYU’s Big 12 hopes, but it probably doesn’t help either.
The 8 Best Candidates For Big 12 Expansion
8. Boise State
The case for the Broncos:
No team on this list has the football resume of Boise State. The Broncos have survived coaching changes and lower level realignment, and have been consistently great, and at times, outright dominant. While we don’t expect Boise to win 10 games a year in the Big 12, all indications are that the team would be competitive. Football success has spread to other sports as well. Boise State men’s basketball has improved in recent years, making the NCAA Tournament in 2013 and 2015. With the blue turf, and exciting BCS/New Year’s Six bowl wins under its belt, Boise State has built a really strong college football brand. The Broncos would certainly make a splash, if they were one of the choices.
The case against the Broncos:
The biggest problem for Boise State is Boise. The Idaho capital has a population of just over 200,000, and is only the 112th-ranked television market in the country. While the Big 12 is largely comprised of smaller college towns, the conference has dragged its feat in expansion after being poached by the Big Ten, Pac-12, and SEC, and would likely want a bit more of a value add if it increases membership. Idaho is not exactly a huge recruiting hotbed either. The Big 12 has shown that location is not the be-all and end-all with the addition of West Virginia, which is far removed from the rest of the conference, but adding Boise State adds another school on an island, and one that does nothing to bridge the gap between WVU and the rest of the league.
On the field, adding Boise State is a winner, and if that’s the main focus here the Big 12 could conceivably buck conference realignment trends. Virtually everything else is working against BSU, however, and that makes it hard to envision a scenario where it is one of the choices.