Provo • In the span of the last two weeks, BYU endured a blowout loss to Iowa State and nearly took down the No. 14 team in the country.
In the middle were 100 yards of chewed-up turf at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
“During the warmup, guys could sense a little bit [how slippery it was],” BYU head coach Kalani Sitake said after his team’s loss to Iowa State. “That had something to do with maybe the confidence we played with. But I don’t want to give it too much of a factor.”
The combination of the wet grass and the age of the field made the Cougars’ playing surface an issue for teams as the season wore on. As players struggled to keep their footing, the field became a talking point during ESPN’s broadcast of the Oklahoma game.
BYU hopes it won’t be a conversation next year. The university will replace the current playing surface with a new field before next season. It will be the first time the playing surface at LaVell Edwards Stadium has been replaced since 2011.
“By removing the old grass, leveling the field again and adding the new grass, we expect the field to perform very well going into next season,” BYU athletics spokesperson Jon McBride said.
The grass field at BYU typically gets replaced every eight to 12 years. BYU was planning to replace the field at the end of this season, McBride said, and the timeline was not expedited due to the poor playing conditions this season.
BYU will stick with the same grass — Kentucky bluegrass — it currently has at LaVell Edwards Stadium. Many open-air stadiums in cold weather use it, including Lambeau Field, home of the Green Bay Packers, and Acrisure Stadium, where the Pittsburgh Steelers play.
BYU’s field became an issue earlier this month when players said they couldn’t find their footing during the Iowa State game. It became such a problem that some players had to change into studded cleats rather than the molded cleats many players typically use.
“Our field is naturally slippery,” tight end Isaac Rex said. “I’ve got these built-in studs in my cleats that helped me a lot [against Iowa State]. I feel like every guy needs to get those for our field.”
Sitake was hesitant to blame the team’s play on the slipping issues, but did acknowledge, “there was a lot of slipping around.” After the Iowa State game, he said players slipped because they were in bad positions to make plays. After looking at the film, he said the field had a lot to do with it.
“I say body positioning because I just think good athletes don’t slip,” he said. “But we had a lot of good athletes slip. So we will figure it out. Between the surface and the footwear, there are answers out there. Nike is a great brand, they have a lot of [cleats] for us to work with.”
With different cleats on Saturday, though, the Cougars and Sooners still struggled on the slippery field. Notably, there was a play in the third quarter when quarterback Jake Retzlaff threw a ball to receiver Kody Epps in search of a first down. Epps was open but fell down and the ball was nearly intercepted.