Stuart Johnson, Deseret News
PROVO — The day after making the historic announcement that it's dropping conference affiliation in football, BYU officials outlined how the Cougars plan to navigate these largely unchartered waters of independence starting in 2011.
Certainly, BYU isn't doing this alone.
Athletic director Tom Holmoe announced during a Wednesday afternoon news conference at LaVell Edwards Stadium that the Cougars have signed an eight-year contract with ESPN to broadcast home games on the network behemoth's family of networks.
"This is the pathway we chose to go for," Holmoe said.
The decision to go independent "comes down to two pillars — access and exposure," Holmoe explained. "Every home football game and men's basketball game will now be carried nationally."
Said President Cecil O. Samuelson: "A driving force in our deliberations has been to secure broad, nationwide access to our games for our large, national following."
Holmoe also announced BYU and Notre Dame have agreed to a six-game football contract that will run through 2020.
"Our vision is to play football games across the country against many of the storied football programs in their legendary stadiums and to those same highly regarded program return to Provo to play in LaVell Edwards Stadium," Holmoe said.
"This is just a tremendous day for ESPN to be back in business with BYU in a formal basis," Dave Brown, ESPN vice president of programming and acquisition, told reporters. "It's a tremendous addition to our college football schedule."
BYU previously announced a three-game series with Texas, beginning next fall, a deal that ESPN helped negotiate.
"One of the challenges of being an independent in football is that of scheduling games," Holmoe said. "With the success of our football and basketball programs, it hasn't been easy to get teams to come to LaVell Edwards Stadium and the Marriott Center. There's another area where our new partnership with ESPN will benefit us. The top matchmaker in college sports."
While ESPN works to line up attractive matchups for BYU, the Cougars will face a steady diet of Western Athletic Conference opponents in 2011 and 2012. The WAC agreed Wednesday to play nine games in those seasons against BYU. In 2011, WAC schools will host two games against BYU and three of the league's teams will visit Provo. In 2012, BYU will play two games in WAC venues and host a pair of WAC foes. Those opponents are Hawaii, Idaho, Louisiana Tech, New Mexico State and San Jose State. BYU is already scheduled to play WAC member Utah State in 2011-12.
Conspicuously absent are Fresno State and Nevada, two schools that decided to bolt from the WAC to the MWC two weeks ago, foiling BYU's original plans to form a partnership with the WAC for its sports other than football. Instead, BYU is partnering with the West Coast Conference, which will be the new home for 12 Cougar sports teams.
Holmoe said there will be "a transition period of a couple of years before we achieve the full vision of what football independence can become. To that point we are grateful to a group of schools in the WAC who have agreed to play us in 2011 and 2012 to help us get started in this endeavor."
Every year, a minimum of three BYU football games will be carried on ESPN, ESPN2 or ABC. Other games could be broadcast on ESPNU. At least one game each season will be televised live on BYUTV.
In addition to the live broadcasts of games, BYU Broadcasting will also have the ability to do same-day rebroadcasts of every home game and every game to which ESPN has the rights.
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