Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
PROVO — From the bridge of the mother ship, the word went out in every way imaginable. For starters, there were the 60 million cable subscribers with access to BYUtv. Then there were the dispatches via Twitter, Facebook, satellite radio, TV and print. Some of it was done in two languages.
ESPN — BYU's new BFF (best football friend) — was there in force on Tuesday, with several representatives. Also in attendance: CBSsports.com, USA Today and about 50 local and regional news outlets.
But in case you missed it (did anyone?), no problem. You can watch it into infinity on BYUtv or the Internet. If this is the year of independence, it is also the year of exposure. You want air time? BYU will be playing on an ESPN channel no fewer than 10 times this season, bowl game not included.
Goodbye, the Mtn, hello, world.
BYU broadcasting alone reaches six continents.
You might call Tuesday's media day at BYUtv's broadcast building an interstellar event.
"This doesn't seem real to me," said offensive coordinator Brandon Doman, looking at the activity around him. "It just does not seem real."
Certainly things have changed in a year. Last summer, BYU and all the other Mountain West teams met in Las Vegas for the standard conference media day. That involved each coach taking a turn speaking. But today BYU is in an entirely different place. No more lining up with the fellas. As of July 1, it officially became a lone wolf, a regular James Dean of college football programs.
"Already, because it's specific to BYU, folks are coming only to talk about BYU football," began Mendenhall. "We were (previously) one of the stops among the media members, going from table to table to table. This is a single stop in a facility that's designed to promote our message."
He added, "I feel so much more liberated in terms of having the freedom in these settings to say and be and interact in a manner that's truly reflective of our program and this institution."
If nothing else, Tuesday's event released a lot of tension that had built up over the Cougars' departure from the Mountain West. For months, the school endured cold stares and intimations of disloyalty. But by Tuesday it was ancient history. In the Cougars' minds, they're not playing for conference titles any more, but national ones.
"I'm glad Bronco is going into this saying our goal is to win the national championship," said athletics director Tom Holmoe.
Risk? There is that. With no conference tie-ins, BYU had to scramble to line up games this year. Some conferences are considering — or have instituted — policies against late-season non-conference games. Yet so far scheduling has gone nicely for the Cougars, thanks to BYU's television affiliation.
"People move games to get on ESPN — just so we're all clear," said Mendenhall. "They'll move from a date to get on ESPN ... and it doesn't matter if they have a scheduled game or not."
He said it's "amazing" what teams will do to get the exposure a game against BYU will bring.
In fact, if you ask Mendenhall, there's a wait list.
"My biggest challenge right now is saying no to all the great opportunities," Mendenhall said. "The number of teams that want to play us on the biggest stage, it's difficult to say no. But wisdom has to be applied so you don't over-schedule as well."
With its own platform and a captive audience, the Cougars aren't holding back. They are saying unequivocally that they plan to (a) spread the r-word (religion) and (b) win big. How much word? As much as they can get out. That broadcast building didn't go up for just one reason.
Then there's the football aspect.
"We're going to be able to play anywhere, any time," said Holmoe.
So it went on BYU's first media day as an independent. Scheduling? On track. Focus? Clearer than ever. Exposure?
Whoever coined the phrase "The World is Our Campus" had no idea.
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