Eye On The Y is The Salt Lake Tribune’s weekly newsletter on BYU athletics. Subscribe here.
Provo • Just when it appeared the prospects of BYU’s football program joining the American Athletic Conference were dead, former WAC and Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson revived them with some comments to the Sports Business Journal recently.
In his weekly SBJ College Newsletter, reporter Michael Smith penned a piece that laid out “two scenarios that truly elevate the AAC” after UConn announced recently it was joining the Big East in basketball and other sports and most likely going independent in football, as BYU did in 2011.
Quoting Benson, who recently retired as commissioner of the Sun Belt, the SBJ reported that the AAC will remain at 11 members if ESPN permits the league to keep all of its media-rights revenue.
“Benson believes that once ADs see the potential for more revenue, they will take that option and stay at 11,” Smith wrote.
That would obviously keep BYU out. Of course, nobody in Provo has given any indication whatsoever that BYU is even thinking about joining the far-flung league. And AAC commissioner Mike Aresco has repeatedly said he hasn’t heard from BYU since UConn’s pending move became public.
Here’s the second scenario, which involves BYU, according to Benson:
“If ESPN exercises the composition clause in its contract — which calls for the network to be compensated for UConn’s lost value — the AAC will seek a replacement to get to 12 teams. That replacement would be BYU as a football-only member,” Benson said.
The SBJ newsletter goes on to say that BYU already has an agreement with ESPN (which expires at the end of the 2019 season but supposedly will be extended soon) and that agreement could be “absorbed” into the AAC’s deal with the network.
“BYU enhances AAC football more than any other non-P5 school, and AAC membership provides the Cougars with a shot to get into a major bowl,” Smith wrote, referencing his conversation with Benson. “And that will never happen as long as BYU is an independent.”
So, if Benson knows what he’s talking about, don’t dismiss the notion of BYU joining the AAC some day. But don’t hold your breath, either.
More BYU football news
July is probably the slowest month of the year for BYU sports news, but we’ve tried to keep the coverage flowlng until preseason training camp opens at the end of the month.
I caught up with former BYU basketball coach Dave Rose recently, and it was easy to tell that he’s already enjoying retirement.
I got together with my colleague, Kurt Kragthorpe, who covers the University of Utah, to rank the top 10 assistant coaches at Utah, BYU and Utah State with an eye towards which are closest to becoming a head coach some day.
In another piece, I wrote about how BYU had a good month of football recruiting in June, but it could have been better if four-star Colorado offensive lineman Andrew Gentry had made his decision known. He’s delayed it, which isn’t a good sign for the Cougars.
Who will be BYU’s best football player this season? Here’s one vote for mammoth defensive tackle Khyiris Tonga.
Finally, the Cougars are rightfully crowing about their No. 31 finish in the Directors’ Cup standings for the recently completed 2018-19 school year.
• Former BYU basketball star Jimmer Fredette abruptly quit the Golden State Warriors summer league team after two games and is not reportedly heading to play in Greece, according to this report in the Deseret News.
• Athlon Sports, to no one’s surprise, is predicting BYU to play in the Hawaii Bowl on Christmas Eve against Hawaii of the Mountain West Conference.
• Jeff Call of the Deseret News captured many of BYU football coach Kalani Sitake’s comments at media day.
• Jared Lloyd of the Provo Daily Herald outlined the golfers with BYU ties who are playing in the State Amateur this week at Soldier Hollow Golf Club in Midway.
We’re reaching back to BYU football media day for this week’s quotable, an utterance from star safety Dayan Ghanwoloku when he was asked about facing USC’s speedy receivers in Week 3 on Sept. 14 at LaVell Edwards Stadium:
“I just like it. I like being the underdog. That’s how I got my five picks when I played corner. I was just like, ‘I am a smaller corner, but let’s throw it up.’ You want that. It is an opportunity to make a play, so if they are going to throw it up, I am going to make a play. You want that challenge. I like that challenge. If USC wants to throw the ball, they can throw it all day. As a DB, I would rather have them throw the ball than run it, because there are opportunities to make plays.”
• BYU women’s volleyball libero Mary Lake recently showed the world what Cougar fans already know. She’s really good. Lake, who will be a senior this fall, helped the U.S. Women’s National Team win the FIVB Volleyball Nations League title on July 7 with a 3-2 victory over Brazil.
Lake, from Palm Springs, Calif., finished up a two-month experience that began in early May when she was named to the team’s preliminary roster. The team competed in Bulgaria, Italy, Nebraska and China. She was one of three college players on the U.S. squad. In all, she played in 24 sets over the course of eight matches and totaled 44 digs and 134 receptions.
• Meanwhile, another BYU women’s volleyball star, one whose eligibility with the Cougars has been exhausted, has been selected to play for the U.S. Women’s National Team in the 11-team Pan American Cup in Peru. Roni Jones-Perry, an All-American at BYU, is one of 14 players picked to play for Team USA. The playoffs begin Friday with quarterfinal matches.
• BYU finished No. 29 in the nation in the Learfield Directors’ Cup standings, as was reported by The Salt Lake Tribune last week. It is the highest finish for any school in the state and the highest among schools not in a Power 5 conference. BYU’s average ranking in 25 years of the Cup is No. 31, and it has had 13 top-30 finishes. It’s highest finish was No. 12, in 1998-99.
• BYU sophomore steeplechaser Matt Owens is a Google Cloud Academic Third Team All-American. Owens was named a first-team All-American in the 3,000 meters after taking eighth place last month at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Austin, Texas.