BYU football: Series with USU beyond 2015 being negotiated
Provo • When BYU announced last week that it had agreed to a home-and-home football arrangement with Middle Tennessee State for 2013 and 2014, Cougars fans turned to the Internet to learn more about the Blue Raiders.
In Logan, Utah State fans just turned blue with anger.
If the Cougars were willing to go 1-for-1 with a Sun Belt Conference school, they reasoned, why couldn't they agree to a similar arrangement with the Mountain West Conference-bound Aggies, their in-state rival?
On the field, the Aggies (4-1) will get a chance to channel their disgust for the perceived slight on Friday, when they meet the Cougars (3-2) at LaVell Edwards Stadium (8:15 p.m., MDT) for the second straight year.
And it won't be the last time the Aggies play two years in a row in Provo, despite the recent protestations of USU coach Gary Andersen. USU athletic director Scott Barnes confirmed to The Salt Lake Tribune on Tuesday that Friday's game ends a three-game contract signed by his predecessor and BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe.
But Barnes said he and Holmoe signed a deal two years ago that calls for the 2013 game to be played in Logan and the 2014 and 2015 games in Provo. Barnes said Andersen was consulted when the two-for-one deal was struck two years ago "but probably forgot" when twice on Monday the coach told reporters that "hopefully this [Friday] is the last time that ever happens, where we go down there twice in a row."
Barnes said there were a couple of reasons he and Andersen "mutually agreed" a few years ago to sign another two-for-one. The chief reasons were because the Friday games were guaranteed to be on national television, and USU needed six nonconference games as a member of the diminishing Western Athletic Conference. He said BYU wanted a six-year deal (four in Provo, two in Logan), but USU pushed for and got three so it could re-evaluate where it was in 2012. Holmoe and Barnes are scheduled to meet later this week to discuss a contract beyond 2015, and it is no secret the Aggies will ask for a home-and-home deal.
"We are absolutely committed to playing BYU in the future on a home-and-home basis," Barnes said. "We feel like now we are in a place where home-and-home is how we want to go."
Holmoe declined to be interviewed for this story through an athletic department spokesperson, saying he does not publicly discuss football scheduling issues until contracts are in place.
However, he did engage in a Twitter conversation with some fans regarding the topic, and noted that, "We make good $ on home games compared to capacity @ USU. Has NOTHING to do with respect. Aggies earned that!"
Asked by The Tribune on Monday about USU's wishes for a home-and-home deal in the future, BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said he naturally wants the current arrangement to continue.
"Obviously, to our advantage, two-for-one is better, so I would like to hold on to that as long as possible," Mendenhall said. "As this contract ends, we will have to look at it closely. But I would like to hold out as long as possible. But I understand their feelings."
One aspect of the deal that may be giving BYU pause is the MWC's lack of a national television contract. The last thing the exposure-hungry Cougars want to do is agree to more games away from Provo that might not be televised nationally.
"I don't have a vibe either way what BYU is thinking," Barnes said.
Mendenhall has said the Cougars would rather play the Aggies in November, and Barnes said Utah State is amenable to that "as long as we are going home-and-home."
The athletic director said that, unlike the Pac-12, the MWC will allow its members to play nonconference games in November.
Ags and Cougs, living together
Contracted BYU-Utah State football games:
2012 • USU at BYU, Friday, 8:15 p.m.
2013 • BYU at USU, Oct. 4
2014 • USU at BYU, Oct. 3
2015 • USU at BYU, Oct. 2
Utah State at BYU
P Friday, 8:15 p.m.
TV • ESPN