At first glance, the announcement earlier this week from the SEC that it would keep its eight-game conference schedule (and not go to nine games like the Pac-12 and Big 12 have done and Big Ten will do in 2016) appeared to be good news for BYU. Obviously, the fewer conference games teams are forced to play means the more games they have available to play independents such as BYU.
Plus, the ACC is said to have been monitoring what the SEC was going to do, and is expected to follow suit.
But there was a caveat that accompanied the SEC’s announcement that should give BYU fans pause, and apparently has already caused some concern for BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe.
The SEC is requiring that all its schools play at least one opponent from the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten or Pac-12 on an annual basis beginning in 2016. Notre Dame is considered part of the 65 schools that comprise the so-called Big Five, although the Irish aren’t technically full members of the ACC in football
BYU is not currently considered one of the schools that would fill the out-of-conference requirement, Slive confirmed to national reporters on Monday.
That’s where BYU's Holmoe comes in.
ESPN’s Joe Schad bumped into Holmoe at the commissioners’ college football playoff meetings in Dallas (Las Colinas, actually) on Monday and tweeted: "BYU AD Tom Holmoe said he plans to speak w/Mike Slive about if his program meets the SEC’s new scheduling requirements."
Holmoe declined several interview requests with local media members after Schad’s tweet, according to BYU associate athletic director for communications Duff Tittle. However, Tittle said that Holmoe acknowledged talking briefly with Slive in Dallas.
"Tom had a brief, cordial conversation with Mike Slive yesterday," Tittle said on Tuesday. "It went well and they agreed that they would get back together and talk about it down the road sometime, probably this summer."
BYU hasn’t typically played a lot of SEC teams, but at least it sounds like Holmoe is concerned enough about the probable exclusion to ask Slive for the consideration. In three years as an independent, BYU has played just one SEC team, beating Ole Miss 14-13 in Oxford in the 2011 opener. The Cougars had a home-and-home with Mississippi State during the Gary Crowton era more than a decade ago.
It might come down to whether Slive and Co. believe games against BYU adds to SEC teams’ strength-of-schedule, because if the talks in Dallas about how teams will be selected for the CFP showed us anything, it is that strength of schedule is going to be really, really important. Then again, adding BYU to the list could open Pandora’s Box. If games against the Cougars fulfill the requirement, why wouldn’t games against other high-profile non-power conference teams to the same thing?
Whatever the case, the SEC’s scheduling announcement and the news last week that the NCAA is considering a restructuring that will grant more autonomy to the power conference schools to make their own rules regarding student-athlete stipends and cost-of-attendance stipends, etc., can’t be considered good news for BYU, or members of the MWC such as Utah State.
There’s this from Sports Illustrated’s Stewart Mandel, who wrote the following in his weekly "mailbag" segment when asked if the power conferences getting autonomy from the NCAA will cause Notre Dame to join a conference full-time in football:
"The real loser in this is BYU. I was all for its independence experiment four years ago, but I could have never foretold how much the landscape surrounding the Cougars would change. They are probably better off as an independent than they would've been had they remained in the now-depleted Mountain West. But despite their 64,000-seat stadium, their semi-recent national title (1984) and their Heisman Trophy ('90), they are not considered of the caliber of programs in the five major conferences. BYU will presumably continue to keep Bob Bowlsby on its friends and family list."
Bowlsby, of course, is the commissioner of the Big 12.
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