PROVO — When asked what the biggest challenge of being independent is, BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall didn't hesitate.
"It's scheduling," he said.
That's the reality of a program that must schedule 12 games a year, rather than just three or four, like teams that belong to a conference.
When asked how much time he devotes to scheduling issues now that his program is independent, Mendenhall attempted to quantify it.
"More time the past two months than my previous six years combined," he said. "It's almost every day, and that's not an exaggeration."
BYU's inaugural independent schedule this fall features several intriguing games away from Provo (Ole Miss, Texas, Oregon State, TCU, Hawaii). But aside from contests against arch-rival Utah, up-and-coming Central Florida, and in-state rival Utah State, which knocked off the Cougars a year ago, the rest of the home schedule lacks star power (San Jose State, Idaho State, Idaho, New Mexico State).
In 2012, BYU is scheduled to face Oregon State, Hawaii, Utah, Boise State, Utah State, Georgia Tech, Notre Dame, New Mexico State and San Jose State, which means three games still have not been announced.
BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe explained one of those games is done but not contracted yet.
"We have two that the irons are in the fire, but it is complicated," he said. "One of them is going to happen. The other two are complicated."
Holmoe agrees with Mendenhall, that scheduling has been the most daunting challenge of independence.
"Yeah, especially early, because the first two years (of independence), most people are done (with scheduling)," Holmoe said. "Without the WAC giving us those games this year, we wouldn't have been able to do it. We had to have that agreement with the WAC. And then we have some for next year, too. Thank goodness we do, or we literally would not have been able to go independent because we would not have games.
"We are still trying to put together some 2012 games. We are working hard. There's less tension right now for 2013, 2014 and beyond. But we are working on them. We have games that we are working on in 2016, 2017, 2018."
Speculation has run rampant about which teams BYU could schedule, such as Nebraska, Wisconsin, Penn State, Ohio State, USC, UCLA, Syracuse and Arizona State. Mendenhall has mentioned that he would like to play Army, Navy, Boston College and Ohio State. He would like to see some of those games played at neutral sites, like Yankee Stadium in New York City.
Twice in its history, BYU has played in foreign countries. The Cougars played UNLV in Yokohama, Japan, in 1978. They took on Colorado State in Melbourne, Australia, in 1987.
Holmoe said playing games outside the country is an option in this era of independence.
"We're exploring that," he said. "It's kind of exciting. It's hard. We can do it, we're used to doing it. We're used to traveling around a lot. You have to have to right (opponent)."
Notre Dame is playing Navy in Dublin, Ireland, in 2012.
"Notre Dame's doing it. That will be great," Holmoe said. "Once they do it, we'll be able to use the Notre Dame model."
Power of ESPN
Mendenhall loves the partnership with ESPN, which is helping the Cougars schedule big-time opponents.
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