Eye On The Y: BYU AD Tom Holmoe likes the Cougars' 2019 football schedule, but knows it could be ‘wicked’ if big-name teams are at their best

BYU is only FBS team to open the season with four-straight Power 5 opponents: Utah, Tennessee, USC and Washington

(Jeremy Harmon | The Salt Lake Tribune) Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Zach Wilson (11) helms his team as BYU faces the Western Michigan Broncos in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in Boise, Idaho, on Friday, Dec. 21, 2018.

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It’s an annual question that has been asked every year since BYU went independent in football in 2011.

Is the Cougars’ schedule — especially in September — too difficult?

Athletic director Tom Holmoe says it very well could be, but that’s the hand the Cougars have been dealt. It is better to roll up their sleeves and prepare for it than to sit around and complain, he said.

BYU released its 2019 schedule on Wednesday, and it includes the opener against Utah, followed by a road trip to Tennessee, then home games against USC and Washington. The Cougars will also host Boise State, Liberty and Idaho State and play at Toledo, South Florida, UMass and San Diego State.

They will do well to go 6-6 again, although I’ve got a feeling that won’t be acceptable in Provo for a second-straight year.

“I am really excited about it,” Holmoe said later Wednesday during a roundtable discussion with reporters who cover BYU sports. “I am really happy that we have a football coach and players that feel good about a schedule like that. As I have said in years past, it is always difficult to put together an independent schedule where you are really putting together 12 teams each year instead of four non-conference foes.”

Holmoe said if the majority of teams on the 2019 schedule are “at their very best, in their history, it would be wicked.”

“But I don’t know that each of those teams is at their very best, right now, including BYU,” he said. “So I think that we have a really good shot to win a large number of games next year based on who we are playing, where we are playing.”

Holmoe said BYU’s season ticket sales “are up from last year, at this point,” and the Cougars have already surpassed last year’s sales totals.

“I think it is a good sign,” he said.

Obviously, the schedule would look a lot different — in terms of when they played specific opponents on the calendar — if Holmoe had his druthers. He wouldn’t start with four Power 5 opponents (the only school in the country doing that) for starters, instead spreading out the more difficult games if he could.

“So, it is not perfect, by any means,” he said. “But I think it is the best we can do considering we don’t get to slot them in whenever we want.”

Our stories from the past week

• The Cougars played well defensively and got the usual strong outings from Yoeli Childs and TJ Haws to down Saint Mary’s last Thursday at the Marriott Center. TRIB

• The BYU men’s basketball team had just one game last week, but it was a big one. The Cougars regained their confidence in the nick of time as Gonzaga visits next. TRIB

• Tribune columnist Gordon Monson weighed in on BYU coach Kalani Sitake’s contract situation. TRIB

• Some folks are under the impression that Kalani Sitake is heading into the final year of his contract. Not true. He’s heading into the fourth year of a five-year deal. TRIB

• “I feel really comfortable with our team going forward,” BYU football coach Sitake told us in an email exchange. Here’s more on what the Cougars will look like in 2019. TRIB

• It was supposed to be a rebuilding season for Jeff Judkins’ BYU women’s basketball team, but obviously the Cougars have another ideas. They have won 11 straight and are ranked for the first time since 2012. TRIB

• BYU’s 2019 football schedule has been known for months now, but the school made it official Wednesday with its release to the public. TRIB

• BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe’s hourlong chat with reporters Wednesday, an annual affair, was short on news but long on optimism. TRIB

• I tried to make the case that No. 4 Gonzaga will be the best opponent to ever play in the Marriott Center on Thursday night when 13-9 Cougars host the Zags (19-2) at 9 p.m. MST. We will know soon. TRIB

Stories from elsewhere

• The seemingly annual column that BYU can’t succeed in the WCC — while ignoring the fact that Gonzaga thrives, somehow — comes courtesy of Doug Robinson of the Deseret News. DNEWS

• The Provo Daily Herald took a closer look at BYU freshman Gavin Baxter, a Timpview High product. HERALD

• Jim Meehan of the Spokesman-Review previews Thursday night’s BYU-Gonzaga game at the Marriott Center. SPOKESMAN


What a difference a big win can make. Here’s BYU forward Yoeli Childs on the Cougars’ confidence level after they defeated Saint Mary’s:

“We have been through a lot of adversity, a lot of ups and downs. But I think we are hitting our stride right now, and I think it is a great time to hit our stride. I would rather hit our stride now than earlier in the season. So I think it is a really good time to be on the up and I just love the energy of this team. I love how positive we are. I love the culture. We are just ready to go.”

Around campus

• BYU’s softball team, the five-time defending WCC champions, have been picked to win the league again in a poll of the league’s coaches. The Cougars, who went 37-22 last year, 13-1 in the WCC, return five starters from a squad that made its 14th straight NCAA Tournament appearance in 2018. BYU received four first-place votes, while LMU received two.

Having garnered its first national ranking, No. 25, since 2012, the BYU women’s basketball team travels to LMU on Thursday and Pepperdine on Saturday for big WCC road games. The Cougars downed San Diego 65-56 at San Diego last Saturday to improve to 17-3 overall, 9-0 in WCC play.

• The No. 3-ranked BYU men’s volleyball team (4-0) didn’t play last week. The Cougars play at No. 9 UC Santa Barbara (7-3) on Friday and Saturday in Robertson Gymnasium. The Cougars are 42-22 all-time against the Gauchos.

BYU golfer Carson Lundell fired a 5-under 208 to finish 16th at the Arizona Invitational earlier this week. The Cougars shot 8-under as a team to finish in ninth place out of 16 teams.