Eye On The Y is The Salt Lake Tribune’s weekly newsletter on BYU athletics. Subscribe here.
A few weeks ago, we used this space to outline how vital a particular couple of weeks were for BYU athletics.
The baseball team was competing in the West Coast Conference tournament, the softball team in the NCAA Tournament, men’s golf in the NCAA Championships and men’s and women’s track and field in the West Preliminaries and then the NCAA Championships two weeks later.
How did they do?
Well, they weren’t great. And that’s being kind.
Aside from a stirring win by Clayton Young in the men’s 10,000 meters at the NCAA Championships, leading a 1-3-4 finish for the Cougars in the event, BYU’s postseason performances in the spring sports were mostly disappointing.
“It been a fantastic year,” said BYU Senior Associate Athletic Director Liz Darger via email. “Our teams won eight conference titles and 13 advanced to the NCAA Championships — including the women’s volleyball team that was ranked No. 1 most of the season and advanced to the Final Four.”
True enough, but the Cougars closed out the 2018-19 school year with a bit of a thud — Young’s big win notwithstanding.
The baseball team laid the biggest egg, going 0-2 at the WCC Tournament after winning the regular-season championship outright.
The softball team went 1-2 in postseason play and was eliminated by host Oklahoma State at the Stillwater Regional.
The men’s golf team finished second at the Pullman Regional and junior Rhett Rasmussen was a medalist, but the Cougars seemingly forgot to take their swings with them to Arkansas and finished dead last in the finals.
Men’s track was ranked No. 4 entering the finals, but kind of fizzled after the big 10,000 race — perhaps the best moment of the year in BYU sports — and finished eighth in the final team rankings. The women’s team also did not live up to its ranking and tied for 25th.
Still, there were some phenomenal performances; Sixteen BYU athletes received a total of 18 All-America honors at the conclusion of the meet.
Why BYU teams and athletes don’t perform well when they get to the big stage is somewhat puzzling and probably a good topic for another day. But for now, the Cougars will also have that WCC Commissioner’s Cup to crow about. They won it for the seventh-straight year, showing that perhaps no school dominates its conference more than BYU dominates the WCC.
Of course, BYU also dominated the Mountain West when it was a member of that league, when all sports were considered.
A big fish in small pond? Unfortunately, that’s what it looked like in 2018-19 when the Cougars got to the national stage.
This week’s other stories
• It wasn’t a surprise, since a certain big brother broke the news on the radio a week ago, but it should be fun to see former BYU coach Dave Rose guide Team Fredette — sans Jimmer Fredette — in The Basketball Tournament July 25-27 at the Maverik Center in West Valley City. Jimmer will be on the sidelines helping Rose, but won’t play this year after leading his team to the semifinals last year because he’s still under contract with the Phoenix Suns.
• Here’s my piece on the latest in the contract negotiations between BYU and ESPN; Not really going out on a limb, but everything I hear is that a deal could be reached soon — perhaps as soon as BYU Football Media Day on Tuesday.
• Here’s Tribune columnist Gordon Monson on one aspect of that BYU-ESPN partnership, bowl games.
• Documents obtained by The Salt Lake Tribune provided a good look at how the whole Nick Emery saga unfolded, how the BYU basketball star received improper benefits, and from whom. Reporter Nate Carlisle broke it all down with this piece on the boosters involved and this series of excerpts from the aforementioned documents.
The Athletic.com re-told the story of how former BYU football great Ziggy Ansah arrived in Provo and went on to stardom in the NFL. It never gets old.
• The Deseret News caught up with a former BYU golfer, John Bodenhamer, who is now the USGA senior managing director of championships and will be in charge of setting up Pebble Beach Golf Links for the U.S. Open this week.
• The Provo Daily Herald spelled out how new BYU coach Mark Pope is working with guys he used to try to stop — TJ Haws, Zac Seljaas, Yoeli Childs and others.
• Olympus High guard Jeremy DowDell will join BYU’s basketball program as a preferred walk-on after a church mission to Argentina, according to this report by Brandon Gurney of the Deseret News.
New BYU basketball coach Mark Pope attended a WCC coaches meeting last month and was a bit starstruck. He says the other coaches weren’t impressed when he walked into the room.
“They were so happy, because they were like, we know this dude can’t coach. We have a couple easy wins. We are happy this guy rolled in here. So it was great. I know these guys. They have been really generous to me over the years when we are out recruiting and we have a chance to sit and talk,” Pope said.
• BYU golfer Peter Kuest didn’t perform the way he would have liked at the NCAA Championships in Arkansas last month, but rebounded nicely at the 23rd annual Arnold Palmer Cup this week. Kuest, a junior from Fresno, Calif., had a 2-2 individual record in four matches, but the U.S. squad fell to the International squad at the Alotian Club in Roland, Ark. The score was 33.5 to 26.5 for the international squad.
• Former BYU women’s volleyball star Roni Jones-Perry has been named a member of the U.S. Women’s Pan-American Cup training team. The U.S. team will host Canada in a pair of exhibition matches this weekend in Tustin, Calif.
• Jones-Perry, from West Jordan, recently signed a professional contract with Volley Millennium Brescia of Italy.