|LM Otero/Associated Press|
|BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall would welcome an opportunity to join the Big 12 if it were offered.|
BYU has maintained that leaving the Mountain West for the virtues of independence in football was a long-term move that was in the best interest of the program and the school that supports it.
In light of new scheduling rules from other conferences and a number of possible NCAA legislative changes, though, it appears the school is changing its tune. Cougars head coach Bronco Mendenhall spoke out on the issue to the Austin American-Statesman on Thursday and practically begged for an invite to the conference in the interview.
"We would love to be in the Big 12," Mendenhall said. "I would love to be a member of that conference. I think that would make a lot of sense. In fact, if that was your headline, that would be great."
Well, OK, then.
BYU made the unusual move of going independent in 2011 after the college realignment craze the summer before saw the Mountain West lose several key members, including in-state rival Utah to the Pac-12. The school always knew putting together a schedule would be one of the most difficult parts of being without a conference but has done OK in that department thanks in part to its television deal with ESPN.
However, recent changes by the ACC and SEC in requiring their teams to schedule at least one "Power 5" conference team -- and that neither would count BYU in that group -- seemed to cast some doubt as to the Cougars' place in the college football pecking order despite fielding a quality football team for decades. Add in uncertainty over how the school fits into a possible autonomous governance structure within NCAA Division I and there's cause for concern in Provo.
"We have a chip on our shoulder," Mendenhall told the paper. "I could have given you that instead of the longer answer. I'm just wondering who fights for us as an independent?"
Fellow independent Notre Dame has firmly established itself in the sport's elite thanks to a rich history, a passionate nation-wide fan base and a scheduling alliance with the ACC. Due to BYU's location out West, it has signed up for several games with nearby Pac-12 schools, but it's doubtful the league would consider expanding just to grab the Cougars. The Big 12, with just 10 teams, would make sense as a possible destination, but conference officials have remained steadfast that they're not expanding anytime soon.
BYU getting an invite to the Big 12 seems a bit like a pipe dream at this point, but Mendenhall certainly has all his talking points lined up should it come to that point. Until then though, the focus for the Cougars appears to be set on doing what they can to get a seat at the table with the rest of the big boys in the sport.
Follow Bryan Fischer on Twitter @BryanDFischer.