As one of the founding members of the MRGC, BYU has competed in the conference since the 2014 season. After winning their first MRGC team title in 2021, the Cougars accepted an invitation to join the Big 12 on Sept. 10, with the first competitive season for gymnastics set as 2024. We talked to head coach Guard Young about what the change will mean for the program.
“This was really exciting news for BYU,” Young said, going on to explain that during his competitive career on the BYU men’s team, the school was part of the MPSF. As a coach, BYU was part of the MRGC. “For me this will be the first time I’ll coach in a conference sponsored by our university,” he added. “I’m very excited for this opportunity.”
Since 2011, BYU has been an independent in football while most of its other sports are members of the West Coast Conference, which does not sponsor gymnastics. Joining the Big 12 will not only unite all of BYU’s sports under a single conference but should allow gymnastics to enjoy the benefits of increased athletic department revenue. “There’s probably going to be a bigger television deal that the Big 12 will sign, and BYU will get some of that revenue,” Young explained. “You’re going to be playing Big 12 opponents regularly, which includes bigger schools with bigger budgets. When we join a major conference like this, the athletic department will have more budget to work with. That will trickle down to all sports.”
Young hopes this might lead to some exciting changes for his program. “I think facility upgrades will be kind of the next big thing, so that’s what we’re hoping for.”
The conference realignment will not only mean a new budget, but new competitive opportunities. “[The MRGC] is a great little conference,” Young said. “All of our programs were ranked in the top 25 or higher. Each meet that we go to—it’s very competitive. The crowds are great. We get to be on BYUtv all the time. So it’s a fun little conference gymnastically.”
With the Big 12 comes Denver, Iowa State and West Virginia, which Young calls comparable programs to those the Cougars typically face in a given season. And, as of now, Oklahoma will remain in the conference for two seasons before leaving for the SEC, providing even more competitive opportunities.
One aspect Young is already planning for is having to devote more time and effort into traveling for conference meets. “My travel schedule is going to be much more difficult,” he said. “Getting to Morgantown is going to be much more difficult than getting to Iowa State. February is going to be much more difficult than being able to jump on a bus and see Utah State every other week.”
But those teams won’t be cut out completely. Young imagines BYU will continue to compete with teams in the area after it joins the Big 12. “We’re still going to have to rely on our local in-state schools for a lot of our home and away competitions,” he said. “We’re not going away. We’re still going to see Southern Utah, Utah State and Boise State a lot.”
“When we get to the Big 12 in two years—I mean, we’re two years away—I’m going to have to start reworking my schedule,” Young said. “My schedule was pretty much built all the way through the 2025 season, so we get to throw that on the scrap pile and start over.”
Logistical issues aside, Young confirms the move is an exciting one. “It’s a good thing for gymnastics. BYU joined a big conference like this and guess what? Gymnastics is being sponsored. That’s a good thing for the sport.”
“Gymnastics in general is just on a real high right now,” Young said. “We’ve had a couple of programs get added over the summer. We have a rest day that was just announced between regionals and NCAA. That’s a positive thing.”
Young concluded, “I’m just really excited for the sport of gymnastics in the NCAA. It just seems like it’s on an all-time high right now.”
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Article by Ryan Wichtendahl; additional reporting by Kelly Feng
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