BYU released its 2014 football schedule on Monday night, and there were few, if any, surprises.
It was also not surprising that the schedule, and football scheduling in general, were major topics of discussion when BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe met with reporters Tuesday afternoon for a roundtable discussion.
Here’s more from Holmoe about the 2014 schedule, the difficulty of scheduling as a football independent, his desire to schedule Pac-12 teams, the future of the series with Notre Dame, and whether coach Bronco Mendenhall’s desire to cast a wider recruiting net is a result of having more difficult schedules moving forward.
On how Holmoe feels about 2014 football schedule:
"It has been put together for a long time. The way we do it now is I think everybody, if they were paying attention, would have known who we were playing.
So it wasn’t a big surprise. We announce the games pretty much now as we contract them, unless for some reason it is a private school, and we are private so we don’t have to. I like it. I think some people have said that it is not as hard as last year. And that could be true. But being an independent, people don’t realize you can’t necessarily schedule games that fit exactly how you want them to. So if you are going to schedule a team in 2013, you might not get them back in 2014. It might be a couple years after that.
The other thing is we have worked with ESPN closely to enhance our schedule, and in order to enhance our schedule we have moved games around a lot.
If I were to show you my worksheet of a draft schedule from a year ago, where I thought this is looking good, this is how it is going to be, there might be 12 games on the schedule over the next six or seven years that have moved — off a year, into another year. And it is kind of interesting: when I call one school, they go, ‘OK, where are we moving?’ They just know that we are going to move our game with them.
And we have had some teams that have called us, and asked us to move games. And we are flexible. We can do that when some other schools can’t.
I feel that it is a good schedule. It might not be as tough as it was last year, but I think there are some solid games in there, a handful of games that will be very tough when it comes down to it. A game on the road against a good team, in a tough situation."
On how some conferences increasing the league games they might play, and how that could impact BYU negatively as an independent trying to schedule games in November:
"We will see about that. I am not sure exactly how that will go. We have seen it a little bit. There have been some conferences that have come out and stated in the past that they are not going to play any games after the first initial four or five games of the season, the first month. And then we have approached them and we have been able to convince them that it is good for our school, and their conference and the conference schools that do it.
So far, it has been good.
I am a little concerned that if teams do go that way, and that is set in stone, and they are going to play more [conference] games, more and more, and then they don’t want to play us? Then I would be concerned. Some of the other sides of that, though, that lead me to believe we are in a pretty good position, or a good position, is that strength of schedule is going to be an important factor going forward with the college football playoff. And we’ve heard, and the reason we get some of these games, is that we are a good team to schedule for that reason.
Before the college football playoff, the reason we scheduled these games is that people liked playing BYU. It was not only a good college game, in college football, it was a game that they felt fit into their schedule.
We weren’t Auburn last year, but we were a competitive team that people knew. Plus, the other side of it, is that playing us, you get on TV — especially if it is home and home, or you are going to play here. So those are positive things.
As you look at statistics, and those are kind of fun for me, in the last, since we became an independent, we have had 39 games, and … 30 were on ESPN, ESPN2, CBS or NBC. So, that’s pretty impressive.
So teams recognize that, and when we approach them, we are able to say, ‘hey, we can do some good things with TV.’ And they like that.
And then, just the record and BYU and the name. Duff [Tittle] threw me a stat that was pretty amazing, that I had no idea about.
It said that over the past 40 seasons, BYU is tied for 4th among all FBS [Division I] programs in number of victories. So some people might think about last year, or the last five years. But looking at the culture and tradition and all that, I think that is one of the reasons that it helps us, and we are probably one of the schools that can [be independent], for those reasons.
The other thing is that as they look away from playing FCS teams, they gotta play somebody. And we have flexibility — so our schedule, to be able to play at any time, makes it possible.
If you look at what we did with the Pac-12, it looked two years ago like that was going in a direction that we wouldn’t be able to play them. And even our games with Utah, the conversation was we got to play early or never. And as it turns out, because of a little quirk, and their desire to continue play Notre Dame, it gave us openings that only we could handle. Nobody else could handle those.
So I am hoping that we can find creative ways to continue to schedule all season, and play just about every conference."
Holmoe on whether he wants to play more Pac-12 teams or play more teams from different leagues:
"I want to continue playing the Pac-12 because that’s where our biggest fan base is, and because there are teams in the Pac-12 are regional, there is more excitement, travel is better. But I think we would be remiss if we didn’t take the opportunities to play across the country. So I will always start out with the Pac-12, and go from there."
On the future series with Notre Dame. Two of the six games the schools contracted to play in 2010 have been played — both at South Bend:
"I have had conversations with [Notre Dame athletic director] Jack Swarbrick and we are in discussions. This is something that is kind of a fluid thing. When we signed the contract, we didn’t actually sign [specific] dates. We just said we want to play these games.
In our discussions, we are going to play these games, but it might be further out. We are going to be accommodating to help them with their schedule.
Now, that doesn’t mean the years are settled yet, but we are looking at potential closer years, and then we could have ‘this one’ for sure, where we will play them this year, if we haven’t played them before then. But I think with Notre Dame, and the experiences we’ve had thus far, in our program history, it is worth it. And where some people might be upset with it. I think it is worth it to be flexible to play those games."
On whether they would do the same for other schools:
"I wouldn’t say that, no. This came up because of a change in their program. Having a scheduling agreement with the ACC, and a bowl agreement with the ACC, changed things dramatically for Notre Dame. They didn’t intend to do that. That was done after we agreed. But in that conversation, we understand that. We have had to make changes in our schedule, because of being an independent. And so I believe it is good to be flexible with our peers out there, because I believe it will lead to future strong relationships. We have a very good relationship with Notre Dame, and I don’t know why in the world we would try to mess with that."
On casting a wider net with recruiting and whether tough schedule played a factor:
"Yes. I think playing a schedule like this this year, it emphasized our need to be stronger, bigger, faster and more efficient in all of these areas. It is not that all of a sudden we went, omigosh, we got to get better. We have played teams and seen teams and know how good they are. And that’s our desire to be able to play with the biggest of the big boys. I mean, I just remember even when I was playing and coaching for the 49ers, we were up there, but we were still looking for better efficiencies, to be able to be the best. That’s really what it looks like, but I think last year’s experience of traveling more — you travel a lot more.
I think this year we will be second to Hawaii in miles traveled. I am not trying to break that record, but in where we are going, that is how it is turning out.
And Bronco [Mendenhall] has come to me and said, ‘Tom, are you aware that we are traveling these long distances?’ I am, but that is where we are going to play these teams."
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