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The biggest threat to BYU football comes from within: impropriety and scandal.

The next biggest comes mostly from the outside: non-inclusion.

While the first looks to be absent or properly contained, the second is gnawing away at the Cougars' viability, and what happened this week with the Big 12 is the latest swipe at BYU as a vibrant football entity.

And it is ridiculous.

It's one thing not to invite BYU into your conference. It is another to disrespect its program to the point where you relegate it to second-class status, indicating to conference schools to stay away from scheduling the Cougars not because they'll get less credit and prestige for doing so, but they may, under certain circumstances, be in violation of league policy.

The conference's new requirement, not unlike what other power leagues have done, is for all teams to annually play at least one nonconference game against a P5 league opponent, which includes the ACC, the SEC, the Big Ten, and the Pac-12. There is only one exception/addition: Notre Dame.

"Schedule strength is a key component in CFP selection committee deliberations," said Bob Bowlsby, the Big 12's commissioner. "This move will strengthen the résumés for all Big 12 teams. Coupled with the nine-game full round-robin conference schedule our teams play, it will not only benefit the teams at the top of our standings each season, but will impact the overall strength of the conference."

The league also announced that no Big 12 team can play more than one game annually against a non-FBS opponent.

On the whole, that's a good thing for college football, generating more quality matchups, more competitive games, during the regular season and, at least in theory, reducing the number of lopsided outcomes that most fans find objectionable.

But for BYU, it makes independence lonelier, still. It's a shot to the school's credibility as a top-drawer program and it could make the already difficult task of scheduling that much more problematic. The Cougars have had some nice showings against Big 12 teams in the past — ask Texas and Oklahoma — and now those opportunities could become less available.

On the other hand, BYU has been through this kind of rejection before, and managed to see it amended. The ACC and SEC, after initially shunning the Cougars, have added them back as exceptions to their league's nonconference scheduling policies. In those cases, BYU does count as a P5 opponent.

But for the Big 12 to relegate BYU to something other than full status is crushing, considering many have seen the Cougars as a strong candidate to join the league as a football-playing member. That's what BYU would love to have happen because, as athletic director Tom Holmoe has stated, long-term sustainability as an independent is … well, complicated and troublesome and, likely, undoable.

It's even more complicated and troublesome if a league like the Big 12 won't legitimize games against BYU. Maybe the league will revisit and revise its policy. Maybe.

BYU has earned that status.It is a better football program, a more storied one, than a number of existing institutions in the Big 12, as well as members of other P5 leagues. For the Big 12 to ignore that fact is strange, especially since it is known that some league athletic directors have indicated they think the Cougars should be given the higher standing.

The prospects for BYU to find a home in a P5 league, at this juncture, look slim, and that's sad for a football program that during the LaVell Edwards years influenced college football with offensive innovation, with a national championship, with Heisman and Outland Trophy-winners, with record-setting quarterbacks, with impressive national rankings, and that under Bronco Mendenhall won 99 games.

Perhaps, somewhere on down the line, the P5 setup in its entirety will change, shifting to something broader. But those who hold their breath on that eventually will need some form of resuscitation.

Neither BYU, nor its football program is perfect. Some of its rules and regulations and stances and past attitudes make difficult its gaining entrance into a power league. But the Cougars do deserve P5 status, if not via immediate and full membership, at least in proper commendation for what the team has achieved and what it still achieves.

The Big 12 should know that.

GORDON MONSON hosts "The Big Show" with Spence Checketts weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone. Twitter: @GordonMonson.

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