Provo • BYU’s long-term contract with ESPN and a six-game series with Notre Dame were two of the biggest attractions of the school’s move to football independence in 2011.
The deal with ESPN soon will be subject to renewal again and the Cougars have played only two games vs. the Fighting Irish. Progress is being made on both fronts, BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe said Friday.
Having been extended by one year through 2019, the ESPN contract is being discussed informally, Holmoe said during a “State of the Program” broadcast on BYUtv as part of the school’s Football Media Day. Questions exist about BYU’s programming value after a 4-9 season in a changing media landscape, but Holmoe sounded confident that the arrangement would continue beyond 2019.
“We have a very good relationship with ESPN,” Holmoe said.
ESPN analyst Trevor Matich, a former BYU player, said his bosses “see BYU as a great draw in the college football world.”
BYU’s upcoming home schedule works in the Cougars’ favor, providing potential ESPN programming. The Cougars will host Michigan State and Houston in 2020 and Utah, Arizona State, South Florida and Virginia in 2021.
BYU visited Notre Dame in 2012 and ’13, but the Fighting Irish have not come to Provo for the scheduled third game and the second 2-for-1 series was scratched, partly due to the Irish’s partial Atlantic Coast Conference schedule. Holmoe spoke of “good discussions” with Notre Dame, suggesting that a game will be booked — as opposed to a buyout.
Playing the Irish, Holmoe said, will be “better than [receiving] a check.”
Former East High School stars Ula Tolutau and Joe Tukuafu no longer are on BYU’s roster. Coach Kalani Sitake did not disclose the reasons for the players’ absence from the program since spring drills ended in April.
Tolutau rushed for 303 yards in seven games last season, before being cited for possession of marijuana in October. Tukuafu, a tight end, sat out last season after originally having signed with Utah State.
BYU is listing four co-starters at running back: Squally Canada, Zach Katoa, Riley Burt and Kavika Fonua. At tight end, sophomore Matt Bushman is a returning starter, backed up by JJ Nwigwe and Moroni Laulul-Pututau, who missed last season due to injury.
Troy Warner’s health is improving after a foot injury kept him out of spring practice, and he’s scheduled to move from cornerback to safety. His position coach also expects to be ready for preseason practice in August.
Preston Hadley’s left foot is in a boot and he’s using a scooter after having surgery, stemming from an injury last December. As a Weber State assistant coach, Hadley hurt himself walking down the stairs of Southern Utah’s press box at halftime of an FCS playoff game. The injury was diagnosed several months later.
BYU defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki kidded Hadley during Friday’s TV show, saying, “You get a guy walking down the stairs and breaks his foot, that’s not athletic.”