BYU football adjusting to schedules and its new-found freedom
Editor's note: This is the fifth in an occasional series examining the BYU football program's move to independence and jump to the West Coast Conference in most other sports.
PROVO — One of the most challenging aspects of being an independent program in football is scheduling.
It can be a logistical nightmare, particularly setting up games late in the season, when most teams are playing conference schedules.
BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe has been working feverishly since the school declared its independence to set up games, and it hasn't been easy. Instead of scheduling four non-conference games a year, as BYU did as a member of the Mountain West Conference, now the Cougars must schedule 12.
Scheduling is something Holmoe deals with on a daily basis in one form or another.
BYU's 2012 schedule is set except for one game, Holmoe said. That season, BYU is scheduled to play Oregon State, Hawaii, Utah, Boise State, Georgia Tech, Notre Dame, Utah State, New Mexico State and San Jose State.
Holmoe wouldn't elaborate about which games have been added, but not yet announced.
Announcements about future games will come "as we complete them," Holmoe said. "You could talk about a series for two years. Then you finally do it. It's the way it is. The first two years (of scheduling) is hard because everybody's got their schedules. We look right now and who are you going to play? There are a couple of teams that are open right now. That's it. Other than that, I'm working with teams to move them off of their schedule. That's a hard thing to do. If you're looking at 2014, 2015 and beyond, and you have a wide-open schedule, you can get better teams."
And with the involvement of television partner ESPN, BYU can play made-for-television games. But things can get complicated. Holmoe does not like to talk about which teams he's talking to for fear of jeopardizing a possible series, waiting instead until the ink is on the contract.
"It's a moving mass of people and possibilities. Sooner or later, you get it," he said. "I've been talking with people for about a year-and-a-half that we're not done with, yet."
In coming years, BYU has games set up with Texas, Notre Dame, Utah, Central Florida, Oregon State, Hawaii, Georgia Tech, Boise State and West Virginia.
Among the opponents rumored to be talking to BYU are Wisconsin, Nebraska, Penn State, Ohio State, USC, UCLA, Syracuse, Arizona State and Navy. Some games could be played at neutral sites around the country.
The way Holmoe sees it, independence is a chance to develop and cultivate new rivalries as well as build upon long-standing rivalries with MWC and Western Athletic Conference opponents.
"It gives us more opportunities. I think the rivalries from the WAC and Mountain West Conference will be very intense," Holmoe said. "Those guys will get over (BYU leaving the MWC). We need to play those guys. They're good games. It would be good for them to play us in their towns. And we want to play. I think we will. I'm starting some conversations with some people now. You'll see it in other sports before football."
Here are other aspects of independence that BYU administrators and coaches are dealing with:
ESPN AND BYUtv
In addition to its eight-year broadcasting deal with ESPN, BYU has its own network, BYUtv, on which it can air games. Not only that, but BYU will also be able to rebroadcast games hours and days after they end, just like the old days and before the Mountain West Conference's TV network prevented that from happening.
According to the contract with ESPN, a minimum of three BYU football games will be carried on ESPN, ESPN2, or ABC each year. Additional games will be on ESPNU. At least one game each season will be carried live on BYUtv.
Approximately 140 events will be broadcast on ESPN or BYUtv. The rest will be available online, too. That's glorious news for BYU fans all over the country who have been frustrated by their inability to watch games on The mtn.
A big issue is how the school can monetize BYUtv, which is limited in the way it can produce revenue through advertising.
"That's what we're doing right now," Holmoe said. "It's a modification. There are rules and regulations with what you can do with the contracts and agreements they have with the (cable and satellite) carriers. We can do things like that. There are certain restrictions, but there are ways we can monetize."
Holmoe said BYUtv is available on DirecTV, the Dish Network and 600 cable companies. The channel is available in about 60 million homes around the nation. The plan is to broadcast about 140 live events and games this year.
That means much more exposure for all BYU sports.
"All of our home football and basketball games will be on TV, and we have the opportunity to do road games with BYUtv," Holmoe said. "We have an agreement with the West Coast Conference that we can do games on the road. Gonzaga has a TV agreement with regional TV. If we were to go there, the game would already be on, and we'd look to do some things with them for when they come here and we go there. We'll have a lot more freedom to work out road deals, which is really nice."
Because of the increased revenue due to the ESPN contract, BYU is looking at ways to use that additional money to bolster the athletic department.
"We have a number of things we're trying to do to grow the programs," Holmoe said. "It's not a windfall of money where we can't decide how to spend it. I believe that we have a certain stewardship to our university as an athletic department with how we play, and how we are fiscally, the way we act. The financial responsibility is part of it. I can't say that we're going to take this amount of money and spend it here. We will improve facilities, straighten out some things with coaches contracts, and give bonuses in certain areas."
Holmoe added that BYU's athletic department has been making money in each of the past four years.
"A lot of schools' budgets are a lot bigger than ours, and they don't win very many games," he said. "The bottom line is, you have to win games. We're going to have to win games with what our budget is. The last five years, our budget has increased every year, but we've continued to be a successful program. As we continue to be successful, the budget will continue to go up. If we don't win games, the budget will go down."
BYU is contracted to the Armed Forces Bowl in 2011, the Poinsettia Bowl in 2012 and the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl in 2013 — as long as it is bowl eligible and not invited to a BCS bowl.
When the contracts for the BCS bowls, and other bowls, expire in 2014, BYU will look to position itself into other bowl deals.
"Right now, there's a limited number of bowls that are available," Holmoe said. "Most of the bowls are tied up through 2014. Our hope is that we can get into the best non-BCS bowls as possible as we try to get into a BCS game. You get into a BCS game by earning it and being a qualifier."
Holmoe said he has also talked to some people who are hoping to start a new bowl game by 2014 that could involve BYU in some way.
BYU 2011 football schedule
Sept. 3 at Ole Miss 1:45 p.m. ESPN
Sept. 10 at Texas 5 p.m. ESPN2
Sept. 17 UTAH 7:15 p.m. ESPN2
Sept. 23 UCF 6 p.m. ESPN
Sept. 30 UTAH ST. 6 p.m ESPN
Oct. 8 SAN JOSE ST. TBA TBA
Oct. 15 at Oregon St. TBA TBA
Oct. 22 IDAHO ST. TBA TBA
Oct. 28 at TCU 6 p.m. ESPN
Nov. 12 IDAHO TBA TBA
Nov. 19 N. MEXICO ST. TBA TBA
Dec. 3 at Hawaii 10:30 a.m. TBA
BYU'S FUTURE FOOTBALL OPPONENTS
(all games that have been officially announced)
at Boise State
at Georgia Tech
at Notre Dame
at New Mexico State
at San Jose State
at Notre Dame
at Central Florida
at Georgia Tech
at Boise State
West Virginia (at Landover, Md.)
Rumored future opponents: Arizona State, Nebraska, Ohio State, Penn State, Navy, Syracuse, Wisconsin, USC, UCLA
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