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Big 12 coaches give their first impressions of BYU football

From LaVell Edwards to late-night games, here’s what the conference knows about the Cougars so far.

(LM Otero | AP) Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark speaks at the opening of the NCAA college football Big 12 media days in Arlington, Texas, Wednesday, July 12, 2023.

Arlington, Texas • When BYU players and coaches arrived in Texas on Wednesday, there weren’t too many familiar faces.

Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian, of course, needed no introduction. He played quarterback for the Cougars in 1995 and has a long-standing relationship with Kalani Sitake.

“I’m really proud of him,” Sarkisian said. “He’s done a great job leading BYU to this point, and we stay connected and stay close that way.”

But outside of Sarkisian, BYU has a ways to go in making connections in its new conference. For now, most of what the league knows about Provo is based on reputation and history. The personal rivalries aren’t there yet.

What does the rest of the conference think about its newest member?

Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell said he always pegged Provo as a place he wanted to play. He grew up watching legendary coach LaVell Edwards lead the Cougars in games on ESPN back in the ’90s.

“I always dreamed of playing against BYU and that Provo area is something that I grew up watching,” Campbell said. “Those games late night on ESPN. I really look forward to the opportunity to go compete there.”

The Cyclones will come to Provo on Nov. 11.

Edwards was a common theme in what other coaches knew about BYU. TCU head coach Sonny Dykes said his father, Hall of Fame coach Spike Dykes, worked with Edwards. Texas Tech, where the elder Dykes coached, ran an offense quite similar to the air raid style that BYU employed with Steve Young, Ty Detmer and Marc Wilson.

“I have tremendous respect for BYU. My dad and LaVell Edwards were close friends, so I grew up a BYU fan watching Ty Detmer,” Dykes told BYUtv. “Being from Texas and Ty’s dad being a high school coach, I kind of knew the Detmer family.”

Dykes will have coached against BYU before the Cougars come to Fort Worth in September. Dykes could recall the first time he visited Utah.

“Going back to my days as offensive coordinator at Arizona, I got hired there to fix the offense and we came to Provo for my first game,” he said. “We had about 30 yards at halftime. I thought this may be the shortest tenure as a play-caller in college football history. Then a year later we played BYU in the Las Vegas Bowl and won the game.”

Different coaches tasked with coming to Provo this year tried to make jokes about what awaited them. Oklahoma head coach Brent Venables cracked that it will, “probably be about 80 degrees” when the Sooners roll into town to play the Cougars on their senior day in late November.

“No, it’s going to be a wonderful atmosphere,” Venables said after a laugh. “Again, incredible fan base. There’s not going to be an empty seat in the house. It’ll be a mature football team, like many of the BYU teams are. Coach and his staff have done an amazing job to establish a program of culture and toughness. You’re going to have to go earn victory. They’re not going to give you anything.”

Cincinnati head coach Scott Satterfield was a little less enthused about a trip out west. The Bearcats will be the first Big 12 team BYU hosts this season. And that Friday night game will be two time zones away for Cincinnati.

“When I looked at our schedule, that’s the first thing that stood out. Number one, I hate playing on short weeks,” Satterfield said. “I don’t like it. I don’t know anybody that really likes it. The players don’t like it. The coaches don’t like it. It’s tough to bounce back, win or lose, and play the next week, particularly on the road.

“That’s a long trip for us and that’s going to be a night game,” he continued. “I think maybe 10:30 Eastern Time on that Friday night. We know that’s a hostile environment, going out to BYU. They’ve got a great football team and a great fan support there.”

Eventually, every coach will come through Utah. But until then, this week was an introduction to BYU for most of the league.

“Love what BYU does and the style of play,” Texas Tech coach Joey McGuire finished. “Excited about the new members.”

Sarkisian said he was just happy BYU will travel to Austin during Texas’ final year in the Big 12.

“BYU has been a national brand for decades,” he said. “Going back to Coach Edwards and what he was able to do. ... Now to be in a Power Five situation in the Big 12, I’m happy for them. I’m happy for BYU. I’m happy for their alumni and those players. I think it’s a great opportunity. Then we get a chance to play them. I’m glad we don’t have to go to Provo. We get them in Austin. So that’ll be fun.”