Gordon Monson: Nobody loves BYU — and that fact stings the Cougars, still

(Trent Nelson | Tribune file photo) Brigham Young Cougars linebacker Isaiah Kaufusi (53) celebrates a sack as Brigham Young University (BYU) hosts the University of Utah, NCAA football in Provo on Thursday Aug. 29, 2019.

It must suck to have nobody love you.

Really suck.

And nobody loves BYU.

By nobody, we mean the Power Five leagues, the only suitors — non-suitors — from which BYU seeks affection.

That much has been pounded into BYU’s psyche, time and time again. Try as they have, the Cougars cannot get an invite. They have knocked on the door. They have made their calls, given their presentations. They have made their case. And they have been sent packing every time.

Former Mountain West partners/opponents, such as TCU and Utah have qualified for the club, getting as they have into the Big 12 and the Pac-12, respectively.

Utah’s inclusion has been particularly painful, spinning BYU off into independence, where the freedom that such a lonely path suggests — even with the help of ESPN — is just as much a confining sentence as it is liberation.

But the Cougars keep on trying to get into the P5, keep on asking, keep on hoping, keep on getting the door slammed in their face.

They are like the poor reject who can’t find a date to the prom. It’s sorry. It’s sad. And they deserve better, based on what they’ve put into their football program.

Still, it got sadder Tuesday, as news leaked out that the Big 12, which has only 10 member schools, is planning to play nine conference games this season, plus one nonconference game.

As other P5 teams peeled off BYU’s 2020 schedule — three from the Pac-12, two from the Big Ten, one from the SEC — in favor of a conference-only schedule, the Cougars had reached out, if not officially, maybe informally, to the Big 12. The hope was it might engage them in a one-season run, including them the way the ACC grafted in Notre Dame for this season.

BYU, for a while, sought some kind of SEC-Big 12 combo-pack. Tom Holmoe put darn-near everything on the table.

Something, anything, to help save the season.

It became apparent, though, for about the bajillionth time that a substantial wall separates the Irish from the Cougars. Notre Dame is Notre Dame. BYU is not. And the pandemic wouldn’t change that.

There’s no telling what BYU would have done had the Big 12 surprised everyone by offering the invite. The Cougars still have three MWC teams on their slate, along with a MAC team and an AAC team. If BYU had been invited as a Big 12 substitute this season, what would the Cougars have said to the Group of Five programs still on their schedule? And now that they’re not getting that invitation, how desperate are the Cougars to hang onto the games they still have with Utah State, Boise State and San Diego State, as well as NIU and Houston?

Official or not, pipe dream or not, it was a situation where they were like, in their heart of hearts, “We don’t want you, we want these guys, but now that we don’t have these guys, we want you.”


Mountain West Conference teams will play eight league games and two nonconference ones, so it’s a good bet BYU will keep some opportunity there. Adding a game against Navy — and maybe other quality opponents — will help. Still, to fill out the schedule — if there is football played at all — it might be extremely sparse. They do have North Alabama to look forward to. BYU could huddle up with other misfits, independents such as New Mexico State, UMass, Army and Liberty.

Either way, it’s tough being rejected by those you are trying to attract.

The fact that P5 teams were willing and wanting to schedule BYU to begin with — and maybe the Big 12, too, will fill in some of its nonconference games with the Cougars — could be seen as a plus. But when they’re willing to play you, but they don’t really want you associated with them, does that make it better or worse?

It’s like the date being asked out, responding with a cute and friendly and condescending sort of almost-yes, but … ahh, ultimately not being able to go because, well, something more important got in the way. Which is to say, in no uncertain terms, you’re not quite desirable enough.

That’s BYU now. Rejected again. The Cougars all dressed up, looking like a P5, wanting to be a P5, crying out to be a P5, and with no place to be, no place to go, no place to play, no authentic invitation to accept.

Love sucks for them.

GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” with Jake Scott weekdays from 2-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone.