Stuart Johnson, Deseret News
PROVO — BYU's first football schedule as an independent has been finalized and was unveiled Wednesday night on BYUtv.
The Cougars' 2011 season will open on Sept. 3 at Mississippi and conclude on the opposite side of the country, in Hawaii, on Dec. 3.
The 12-game slate features teams from the Southeastern Conference (Ole Miss), Big 12 (Texas), Pac-12 (Utah and Oregon State), Conference USA (Central Florida), Western Athletic Conference (Utah State, San Jose State, Louisiana Tech, Idaho, New Mexico State and Hawaii) and Big Sky (Idaho State).
It will also mark the first time the Cougars will play seven home games, including the home-opener on Sept. 17 against arch-rival Utah.
Eleven of BYU's 12 opponents had been known previously. On Wednesday, BYU announced its 12th opponent will be Big Sky member Idaho State. The Cougars and Bengals will meet on Oct. 22 in Provo.
"We needed one more home game to finalize our 2011 schedule and Idaho State had an opening. It turned out to be a good opportunity," said BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe. "I appreciate Jeff Tingey and his staff at ISU. They have been great to work with. We look forward to hosting the Bengals next year."
BYU and ISU have played only three times in football, with the most recent meeting in 1951.
With BYU announcing its plans to go independent on Sept. 1, Holmoe didn't have much time to line up opponents for next fall.
"For a 2011 schedule, with a limited time to put it together, knowing that when we made the decision to leave the Mountain West Conference and go independent, we were going to be behind the eight ball," Holmoe said.
But the Cougars received a big assist from ESPN, with which BYU has signed an eight-year broadcast agreement.
"ESPN helped us greatly," Holmoe said, mentioning the role ESPN played in setting up the Ole Miss game. "We had some other schools step forward with a willingness to play us."
While the NCAA would have allowed the Cougars to play a 13th game because of their trip to Hawaii, Holmoe and coach Bronco Mendenhall decided to play only 12 contests.
"When you look at this schedule and you look and see where we're playing, there's a lot of travel," Holmoe said. "Our team is still relatively young and inexperienced. We would have had to add another road game or play a home game against a FCS team. Bronco and I got together and said, 'Let's play 12 this year.' "
BYU will enjoy two bye weeks on 2011 — Oct. 29 and Nov. 26.
Holmoe is excited about finishing the season at Hawaii and renewing a long-standing rivalry that's been on hold since 2002.
"It's been a good rivalry. For some reason, it was taken off the schedule," he said. "We look to this game as being a game that will intensify in the rivalry. We recruit heavily in Hawaii. It's going to be good. It's going to be a long-term contract. We're looking to bring this out 8-10 years. We'll go home-and-home every year."
Holmoe is also looking forward to the future as an independent, particularly when it comes to scheduling.
"This is our first year of independence," he said. "As we look down the road, we have an opportunity to bring in some nice teams and to be able to play on the road against some traditionally great college football teams. It's going to be fun."
Additional details, including broadcast plans, game time and ticket information for 2011 games will be released at a later date, most likely next summer.
Mendenhall will be in Albuquerque today to attend a New Mexico Bowl luncheon and press conference with UTEP coach Mike Price.
BYU's 2011 schedule
Sept. 3 at Mississippi
Sept. 10 at Texas
Sept. 17 Utah
Sept. 23 Central Florida
Sept. 30 Utah State
Oct. 8 San Jose State
Oct. 15 at Oregon State
Oct. 22 Idaho State
Nov. 5 at Louisiana Tech
Nov. 12 Idaho
Nov. 19 New Mexico State
Dec. 3 at Hawaii
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