Let's start the day off with a couple of links ...
* Here's an interesting story out of Farmington, N.M., about a high school athlete, Daniel Lacey, who starred in three sports for the Scorpions. Lacey will walk on at BYU to play football this fall; his father also played football for the Cougars.
* The Tribune's Martin Renzhofer gives us a BYU men's volleyball update, as the Cougars prepare to play host to Penn State on Friday and Saturday in Provo.
I mentioned before that I will be in Provo today for a luncheon/media gathering with BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe. There is a lot of speculation out there that BYU/Holmoe might make one or more fairly major announcements today regarding facilities upgrades. It is known that the Marriott Center will undergo a facelift (inside the arena, and to the locker rooms) of some sort. Could plans for a new basketball practice facility also be in the works?
"There will be a real change to the Marriott Center, not only behind the scenes, but also within the arena, inside the Marriott Center. I think the construction will start on that the first of May," coach Dave Rose told me earlier this week.
And what about a basketball practice facility?
"It is a real priority here. And I think that our administration, the university administration, is committed to that priority," Rose said. "I know that our athletic administration is committed to it, too. I look forward to that."
I asked Rose why a basketball practice facility is needed.
"I don't know so much that it is the recruiting battles as much as it is the players of today, they grow up with so much individual time in the gym, and people wonder why the NCAA Tournament is so competitive, and there are so many teams with good players that are successful. A lot of it has to do with the amount of time kids nowadays spend playing basketball, and developing their talents. I think that that is more the priority. Once a student gets here, the convenience of their access to the gym is a big deal.
We have access to all kinds of gym time now, it is just not as convenient as we would like it to be for our student-athletes. We seem to be able to facilitate it really well, but we could facilitate it a lot better, with our own facility."
Yeah, I have almost brought you everything I spoke to Rose about last Tuesday. But here are a few more items as they relate to scheduling:
On what this year's schedule will look like (the highlights), and when it might be released:
"We go to Baylor, go to Oregon, play Virginia Tech in the ESA. We have Utah and USU in the Marriott Center. We are three or four games away, still, from releasing it. Probably in June [is when it will be releaseed]. It is pretty similar to last year. Actually, it should be a little stronger that last year."
On whether he is committed to playing Utah, USU and Weber State on a yearly basis:
"I think so. I think we will continue to work it out. It has been good for us. I think that our formula for scheduling, how we have been able to put that together, works well for us. You know, we were a little nervous last year, changing leagues. We thought, OK, if we win X amount of games, and we get to March, are we in a position where we will still be invited to the NCAA Tournament if we don't win the conference tournament?
From last year's schedule -- and we let some games get away. If we had won a few more games, we would have been in an even better spot for an invitation and for getting a better seed. So I think we are a lot more comfortable now, going into our second year in this league. Our scheduling formula and kind of the way we've done that, we will improve it the best we can. But we don't have to totally change it. And we don't have to go making major changes.
There are two important factors: one is your team that is returning, and whether it can handle that schedule. And then you want to try and play the very best schedule you can that accommodates your team, and that is fair to the student athletes and is fair to the fans. So that's the challenge, and within the guidelines of the model that we use scheduling, we don't have to change a lot in going to this new league. We didn't know that a year ago.
Our RPI stayed pretty high. And then with a couple more wins in strategic spots last year, our RPI could have been a lot better. That is what we will really focus on, is trying to get the games, and then win them."
All in all, Rose said the Cougars enjoyed life in the West Coast Conference -- their first year in the league.
"Yeah, I think it has proven to be a very difficult league in which to win a conference championship in the regular season. I think that our players from that experience this year, hopefully their motivation to improve and work over the offseason will have a higher sense of urgency because we didn't win the regular season this year. Hopefully we can do a better job next year trying to get that done."
On whether the league was as good as he expected:
"I think the league is a little bit better than we expected. I think that it was a young league, but it was returning so many players -- the same thing is going to happen next year. I mean, we got the MVP of the league returning, from the team that won the regular season and the conference tournament [St. Mary's]. You talk about a challenge, next year is going to be an unbelievable challenge, to knock [SMC] off, the defending champions, basically with the same guys back. I believe that the teams that finished in the second half of the league are all getting better. They are all improving. I am really impressed with the commissioner of the league, and the direction and leadership he has shown in just the year and a half that I have known him."
On his thoughts on whether Pacific is a good addition:
"I think that the challenge of scheduling -- and this is hard for me to speak on this because I am coming from a league that had nine schools and didn't have travel partners -- and that's how we operated for the last six years, before this past year. I can understand how the WCC schools that had travel partners. There have always been travel partners. And I think that was a little unsettling to guys, and so getting back to travel partners is probably the main reason, and I think that it is a good addition. I think it is a good thing.
For us, it is a little more difficult than I had anticipated -- playing on West Coast time on a Thursday and then flying back for a Saturday afternoon game. And if the schedule does turn out this way and there are travel partners ... over the course of a long run, that might be logistically a little easier to facilitate, so we will see."
On whether BYU and San Diego will be travel partners:
"I don't know that. It won't be decided until there are some meetings. There is a meeting on May 3 with coaches and ADs and it will probably be discussed then. ... I would think that that would be logical."
For the BYU women's basketball fans out there, point guard Haley Steed has announced that she will use the year of eligibility granted to her by the NCAA after an injury-riddled career and return to the team for her senior season. That's huge news for coach Jeff Judkins and his staff.