PROVO — As an independent football team, BYU's venture into the Northwest and Pac-12 territory is what it is all about — travel, exposure and a benefit to Cougar fans in Oregon and surrounding environs.
But it comes with a price.
Oregon State has the attention of BYU's players and coaches. With no conference affiliation, this is a key football game and the Beavers are not the same team that opened the season struggling. It is a place BYU hopes to find recruits. BYU also gets back to the Pac-12 mechanics of having Pac-12 officiating crews doing a Pac-12 home game.
"They are plenty good," said assistant head coach Lance Reynolds.
"They pass, pass, pass and we'd better be ready for them to spread it around," said defensive end Matt Putnam.
"I'd like to play schools from every major conference," said BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall. "I'd like to play Big 12, I'd love to play ACC, I'd love to play Pac-12 and Big Ten. Part of being independent is wanting people to see us. Part of being independent is doing it all. This year we've gotten off to a pretty good start."
Asked if he had issues in Pac-12 play with that league's policy of keeping its own league officiating crews, Mendenhall said there is nothing that can be done if that is the policy and you want to play a Pac-12 team.
"Don't have much choice. It makes sense if you want to play those teams and they'll play, its part of their rules. It makes sense for us because it is a regional game but it makes more sense to have a crew that is regional or neutral."
For the past few seasons, BYU has used officiating crews in Provo comprised of a coalition of league officials from the MWC, WAC, Big 12 and Conference USA. When Pac-12 Utah visited Provo, however, by agreement, they were from the Pac-12, which is normal for many home games across the country.
Mendenhall didn't appear concerned who blew the whistles. On Thursday, his big concern was holding on to the ball offensively and making stops defensively this Saturday in Corvallis.
An interesting note to the last BYU game with a Pac-12 team, Utah, was what transpired a few days later. In that game, a Utah receiver was hit high by BYU safety Travis Uale but there was no penalty flag for "targeting" the head, an emphasis this season in college football.
BYU officials got a call from the head of the Pac-12 officials who inquired what was BYU going to do to Uale for the hit. As an independent, BYU was not under the purvey of a league and the Pac-12 couldn't do anything, even if it wanted to.
It was a strange situation and underscored one aspect of how an independent doesn't answer to a league.
BYU's trip to Corvallis will draw thousands of Cougar fans who have lined up to secure tickets. BYUtv successfully negotiated an agreement with rights holder (the Pac-12) to do a joint TV venture with Fox, making the game available nationwide.
BYU hopes to capitalize on the exposure to those who attend the game locally and viewers who may see it on TV. By securing the game on BYUtv, all BYU's games will be broadcast to a vast audience via satellite and cable services.
Reynolds, who recruits the Pacific Northwest for the Cougars, believes the exposure in Oregon is a good thing, but there is no change in BYU's focused targets in recruiting. BYU will still try and get top LDS players like Oregon native Luke Staley and identify other top non-LDS athletes who may be interested.
"We recruit a lot of the same guys because of who we are. The bulk of the guys won't change much. The issues are, can we get more of those top LDS kids that we haven't been able to get for whatever reason and can we be more effective at getting those who aren't in our bulk."
BYU currently has commitments from two football players in the region, both from Washington. They are Sawyer Powell, a linebacker from Richland, Wash., and Matt Hadley, a safety from Connell, Wash.
Cougars on the air
BYU (4-2) at Oregon State (1-4)
Saturday, 2 p.m. MT
Reser Stadium, Corvallis, Ore.
TV: KBYU, Fox College Sports Pacific
Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM