BYU says new ESPN deal is imminent, but bowl agreements are extending the negotiations

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Staff stay busy during BYU football media day at the BYU Broadcasting Building in Provo on Tuesday, June 18, 2019.

Provo • BYU’s annual Football Media Day came and went Tuesday without any major announcements. However, the much-expected new contract extension with ESPN is still very much in the works, athletic director Tom Holmoe said in a pre-recorded statement that aired during the live broadcast titled “State of the Program.”

Holmoe said the holdup to the negotiations is BYU’s bowl situation, as the Cougars rely on ESPN to help them land postseason games because they are an independent in college football and not affiliated with a conference, which generally have their own bowl tie-ins.

“We plan to be with ESPN for a long time,” Holmoe said. “It will be good. … We are on the tail end of negotiations.”

Holmoe did not divulge the expected length of the new contract, or if there is a timeline to get the deal completely done.

He stressed that BYU’s agreement with ESPN for the sports broadcasting giant to air up to five BYU football home games a year will continue, but officials are waiting for the other deal — the bowl contract — to be finalized before they make an official announcement.

BYU is contracted to play in the Hawaii Bowl on Christmas Eve this year before the ESPN contract expires, “which will be a new thing for us,” Holmoe said.

ESPN networks will air 35 bowl games, and was largely responsible for getting BYU into the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl last December when the Cougars were 6-6 and competing with several other 6-6 teams for a bowl berth. Also, Holmoe said BYU’s enticing home schedule this year — the Cougars host Utah, USC, Washington and Boise State at LaVell Edwards Stadium — is largely due to its deal with ESPN.

“Luck,” Holmoe said, when asked how he lined up a strong home schedule. “The way we did it is with ESPN.”

Holmoe was forced to miss media day for the first time since BYU began holding this event in 2011, the summer before the Cougars played their first schedule as an independent. Officials said he was at a family reunion.

Aside from the TV contract, the other big question Tuesday revolved around sophomore quarterback Zach Wilson’s health. The product of Draper’s Corner Canyon High underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right (throwing) shoulder in January, and missed spring camp.

Wilson said he began throwing again June 1 and is “totally on schedule” to be ready for preseason training camp, which begins July 29.

He said he is now 70 to 80 percent healthy.

“The good thing is I have full mobility in my arm and am not experiencing any pain at all,” he said.

Passing game coordinator Aaron Roderick said Wilson has been throwing about 80 passes a day, up to 30 yards per throw, and there have been no setbacks to date.

“My only worry about Zach is him trying to do too much,” Roderick said.

Wilson said he spends at least two hours a day watching film.

“I expect myself to come back better than last year,” he said.

Unlike previous years, there were few, if any, announcements regarding personnel. Cornerbacks coach Jernaro Gilford acknowledged that senior cornerback Trevion Greene is in the NCAA transfer portal as a graduate transfer and plans to leave BYU now that he has a degree in hand.

“We will miss him,” Gilford said.

On the depth chart in BYU’s media guide, which was released Tuesday, the starting corners are listed as D’Angelo Mandell and Chris Wilcox, with Keenan Ellis and Isaiah Herron their backups.

“We’ve got six or seven guys who can play,” Gilford said. “We will be all right there.”