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Influential Mormons pushed for church-owned BYU in Big 12

Source: The Desert News

SALT LAKE CITY — Some of Utah’s most influential Mormons, including Mitt Romney, Gov. Gary Herbert and the president of the Utah Jazz, lobbied to get the private, Mormon church-owned Brigham Young University an invitation to join the lucrative Big 12 athletic conference.

Jazz President Steve Starks said BYU was asked not to directly lobby other universities, so he instead worked to drum up support for the Provo school and enlisted help from the governor’s office.

Starks, a Mormon, didn’t attend BYU but said he’s always been a fan and the university’s entrance into the conference would have been good for Utah and Utah sports.

Big 12 university presidents and chancellors authorized Commissioner Bob Bowlsby to begin evaluating potential expansion candidates in July, and BYU is among several schools that made it clear they’d like to become members of the Power Five conference.

But the Big 12 Conference announced Monday that it has decided against expansion from its current 10 schools.

To make a case for BYU, Starks said there’s been “several of us that I think have pulled out our Rolodexes and made phone calls.” He declined to name names beyond Romney and Herbert, but said there were many others.

Romney, the most prominent Mormon in the country, called Oklahoma State billionaire booster T. Boone Pickens to make a pitch for his alma mater, Pickens told reporters in September.

Messages left with a representative for Romney was not returned, but Starks said he didn’t ask Romney to get in involved in the effort because the 2012 presidential candidate already was making calls.

Starks called the Utah governor’s office to see if Herbert, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, would reach out to his counterparts in states with Big 12 power schools to urge their support for BYU.

In August, Herbert called Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to urge support for BYU and days later made a similar pitch to Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin while they attended a Republican Governors Association meeting in Colorado, said Herbert’s Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox.

Read the Desert News article here

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