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BYU Enlists Mitt Romney to Push Big 12 Bid

As the Big 12 Conference continues to cautiously explore expanding to more universities, news has emerged that at least one hopeful school enjoys the assistance of a former GOP presidential nominee.

Mitt Romney has reportedly been calling members of the Big 12 to tout his alma mater, Brigham Young University (BYU), and to push its inclusion as a possible expansion team, according to a report in the Austin American-Statesman.

Of Romney’s campaign for BYU, the paper reports that “one Big 12 school official said 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has called power brokers, including Oklahoma State’s T. Boone Pickens, lobbying for support for BYU to join the conference.”

Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby has kept mostly mum about expansion plans but has said there is an “open mindedness” about the idea. However, hinting that there is at least some contentiousness about it all, the Commish also noted, “If it was a clear path, it wouldn’t have taken so long.”

Some of that contentiousness just might be political, at least as far as BYU is concerned.

Only a few weeks ago several gay advocacy groups sent a letter to the conference demanding that any hope for BYU be quashed at the outset because of the school’s Mormon-based religious stance on homosexuality.

The letter was sent by Athlete Ally, a non-profit group seeking to “foster inclusive sports communities.”Athlete Ally, along with the National Organization for Women and 22 other pressure groups, demanded BYU be excluded from expansion plans because the school “openly discriminates against its LGBT students and staff” and “provides no protections for LGBT students.”

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which owns and operates BYU, teaches that “sexual relations are proper only between a man and a woman who are legally and lawfully wedded as husband and wife.” But that wasn’t the end of the matter as a 2014 letter sent to church leaders from the Council of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles noted, “Just as those who promote same-sex marriage are entitled to civility, the same is true for those who oppose it. The Church insists on its leaders’ and members’ right to express and advocate religious convictions on marriage, family, and morality free from retaliation or retribution.”

The tolerance for the right to express both views on the issue, though, does not satisfy the advocacy groups seeking to eliminate BYU’s chance to join the Big 12 Conference.

“Given BYU’s homophobic, biphobic and transphobic policies and practices,” Athlete Ally contended in its letter, “BYU should not be rewarded with Big 12 membership.”

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at igcolonel@hotmail.com.

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