Before BYU went independent in football, its fans loved scheduling news -- craving any little tidbit of information regarding which four teams the Cougars would be playing in their future nonconference schedules.
Now that the Cougars are independent and have 12 games to fill each season, that desire for scheduling information is simply off the hook. So says athletic director Tom Holmoe, who noted during BYU Football Media Day last week that he gets hundreds of emails a year from BYU fans with suggestions about who the Cougars should play, and when. Holmoe said he works on scheduling 365 days a year.
Last Friday, I wrote this story for the newspaper about how one of the three major announcements from media day -- that BYU had agreed to appear in the 2015 Poinsettia Bowl and one other Poinsettia Bowl before 2020 -- was lost a bit in the hubbub over Bronco Mendenhall's contract extension.
The other big announcement -- that BYU would play a three-game series against USC in 2019 (Provo), 2021 (Los Angeles) and 2023 (Los Angeles) -- also didn't get explored as much as the coaching news.
So here's a (lengthy) post about BYU's future schedule as an independent, with comments from Bronco and Holmoe:
Mendenhall said there are only a half-dozen schools in the country that BYU will do a two-for-one with, and USC is one of them.
"It really wasn't the ideal [setup]," Mendenhall said. "My take on that to reiterate my policy is I like home-and-home and then neutral.
If I could have my perfect way on that would be to play home and home and then, shoot, who knows -- at Candlestick, or some other place in California that would be a unique venue. That [Candlestick] wasn't the right one to say, but I think you get my point: some other venue that provides an instate game for them, but provides some other element.
But now when you consider it is USC, and with our fanbase there [in Los Angeles], there were some other elements with that game that made a little more sense to me. That's why it came off. This would be the exception and not the rule in terms of going forward.
I hope you can see that with our following with Southern California, we get some advantage by going down there two times."
The game in Provo is scheduled to be played on Sept. 14, while the games at USC will be played Thanksgiving Weekend. That represents a shift for the Pac-12, which previously said its schools could not play nonconference games in November (other than the grandfathered-in games against Notre Dame that USC and Stanford play). It is the reason why the BYU-Utah rivalry game was played in September the past two season, and will be again this year (Sept. 21).
Holmoe said he wasn't completely sure why the Pac-12 made the exception for the USC-BYU series, other than to note that the league was realizing some scheduling issues with having 12 teams. They did it to help USC, not BYU, he stressed.
"It is a good choice. It makes complete sense. If you need a game, and you are in the Pac-12, then rather than travel all the way across the country, and you want a good opponent, how does it not make sense? And there is a possibility that other announcements besides USC will come out, there is a possibility that others will come out from the same conference. It just makes way too much sense for both sides. For us, it makes sense because of the markets [Pac-12 teams are in], there are a lot of [LDS] church members there and the quality of football is good. So I wouldn't be surprised. And I think from their perspective, how could they look at it and say that doesn't make sense? So it is a good sign."
Although they are nearly a decade away, the games at USC will help BYU in its quest to beef up its November schedules.
"It is interesting, because the team still plays hard, regardless," Mendenhall said. "But it is more fun to have other elements that are intriguing. So I don't think it affects how they play, but I think it affects their morale. It is more fun for everybody. Just to have a rivalry game at the end is fun and adds an element to that. If you could have two or three games in that last half of the season, like we have now, it just makes it more fun."
Last November, BYU and UNLV of the Mountain West Conference announced a home-and-home football series for the 2014 and 2015 seasons. UNLV became the first MWC school that was in the league when BYU bolted to agree to play the Cougars again.
I asked Mendenhall last week whether some MWC schools are still snubbing the Cougars after he mentioned he would like to play the service academies, including Air Force, as often as possible.
"I think that was all rumors," he said. "There hasn't been a single team that we have contacted in the Mountain West, or has contacted us, that had any resistance to playing us. There hasn't been one. So if they have said that, they haven't said it to us. We have actually received some good support that way, and I have no issues. We are going to play Nevada this year. We play Boise already. We play UNLV. So really, if you think about filling in our schedule and balancing it out, what if it is a combination of some of the Mountain West teams, some of the top-12 teams, and then you got Notre Dame and then you've got some of the national and regional games, if you could add Army, or Navy, or Air Force, it is pretty fun. So it is starting to take shape; it is just going to keep taking more time."
Of course, Utah State officially becomes a member of the MWC today, which is huge for the Aggies and their seemingly upward climb in football. Last October, on the eve of the BYU-Utah State game in Provo (which BYU won, 6-3), I wrote this article about the future of the series and how the Aggies are pushing for a home-and-home arrangement when the current deal that begins this year expires. The Cougars and Aggies will meet in Logan this year (on Oct. 4), but the 2014 and 2015 games will be played in Provo.
USU athletic director Scott Barnes and BYU's Holmoe were talking about it last October, but apparently nothing has been decided.
I asked Mendenhall for his thoughts about playing Utah State and whether he would agree to a home-and-home deal with the surging Aggies now that they are in the MWC.
"I would rather not," he said. "I like the two-for-one, obviously, because it is to our advantage. You try to hold the advantage as long as you can. But I think they are doing a nice job and I like the game. It is one of our tougher games every year."
Far as I know, Holmoe did not address the BYU-Utah State series last week.
However, he talked about it extensively in late May during a roundtable discussion with reporters.
"Scott Barnes and I are in discussions now, just to try to work something out," he said. "We have a couple more games still contracted. But both ADs want to play each other. It is like [with] Utah. We got to make that work. It is really no different than Utah. We got to make it work."
Holmoe was asked whether the MWC will allow USU to play BYU in November, and whether that would perhaps persuade BYU to go home-and-home, if the games is Thanksgiving Weekend.
"Scott Barnes and Utah State have been great. I called Matt [Wells] when he got the job, and he is great and looks forward to a great relationship with BYU. So as far as addressing Utah State -- there is no strained relationship.
The Mountain West thing, we actually have, with the Mountain West Conference people -- Craig Thompson and his group of assistants -- it is a very good relationship. They have been helpful to us in scheduling with the teams in the conference that want to schedule us. So we have a deal with Vegas [UNLV], and they were really helpful with that. So I don't see a problem with that. Now, individual teams in the conference? We will see how that goes.
But Utah State, we have traditionally played them on the Friday night of General Conference, it works, it fits. But now that they are moving into the Mountain West Conference, there might be a different time [they want to play us]. I would be willing to look at different time outside of that. I have always told ESPN that we love to play that Friday night game. ... I would love to play that game in November. But that might not [work]. Utah State doesn't think it is great right now. But I keep trying to say, 'hey, that would be a big thing in the state. We go there, you come here.'"
Far as I can tell, BYU needs one more game to fill out its 2014 schedule. Listed below is what I believe the 2014 schedule looks like right now.
I asked Mendenhall who that opponent might be.
"We are working on a number of games for the future. Some of these games will take years, and I certainly early in my scheduling career, I would kind of suggest and get excited about some talks that were going well, and they didn't come to pass. And I looked like a fool, so it is best not to jinx myself," he said. "We are just a really good, kind of wildcard team, that helps people with their schedules. I think in most cases, teams will look at us and say, 'this fits.'"
BYU's 2014 Football Schedule
Aug. 28 (Thursday) -- at Connecticut Sept. 6 -- at Texas Sept. 13 -- ??? Sept. 20 -- Virginia Sept. 27 -- Houston Oct. 3 (Friday) -- Utah State Oct. 11 -- ??? Oct. 18 -- Nevada Oct. 25 -- at Boise State Nov. 1 -- at Middle Tennessee State Nov. 8 -- Southern Mississippi Nov. 15 -- UNLV Nov. 22 -- ??? Note: A game at Central Florida is scheduled, but exact date has not been determined.
By the way, in case you missed my last post, I am taking input on BYU's move to independence now that the Cougars have been free from the MWC for two years. Do you like it? Why, or why not? Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I may use your opinion in an upcoming article. You can also post your thoughts on The Tribune's Facebook page by going here: https://www.facebook.com/saltlaketribune.
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