PROVO — BYU's football media day arrived early — yeah, it's still June — but it came on the heels of Tuesday's landmark announcement that a four-team college football playoff will supplant the Bowl Championship Series by 2014.
Those four teams will be picked by a selection committee, and the semifinals will be held at current bowl sites.
Athletic director Tom Holmoe embraces the changes.
"It's better than it was. I like the fact that there's going to be a playoff," Holmoe said Wednesday at the BYU Broadcasting Building during media day festivities. "I've been a playoff proponent. It's not eight or 16 teams, which is logistically unrealistic, but I like where they're at. At least it gives us access. It's very difficult, but without automatic qualifiers to bump you out of the way, it's the best four teams."
Coach Bronco Mendenhall also likes the direction college football is taking in determining a national champion.
"It will clear up the naming of a true national champion through basically adding one more game," Mendenhall said. "I'm for that part and I like that part."
How will this the new postseason format impact BYU?
"What it means for our program really isn't much different than what it's meant previously," said Mendenhall. "I know we'll have to be undefeated against very good teams and maybe we'll have to do it twice to get a chance at (reaching the top four). I still think it's possible. I'm still absolutely passionate to pursue it."
Added Mendenhall, "To me, a conference championship means nothing. You could have four good teams from the same league (in the playoff). I don't think any weight should be given to that. I'm talking about teams that win the most against the best teams."
How far away is BYU from reaching college football's Final Four?
"If you judge by number of wins, not that far," Mendenhall said. "If you judge by the quality teams we would play week-in and week-out and then the number of wins, I think that's the next step — continuing to build our schedule in a manner that has more difficulty. Because strength of schedule will be one of the things that will be a determinant to get into one of those. So if we can add stronger teams throughout our schedule and keep similar wins or more, that's what the next step is. As you look at our scheduling, we're adding better teams and more of them. A lot of them on the road."
This season, the Cougars visit Utah (Sept. 15), Boise State (Sept. 20), Notre Dame (Oct. 20) and Georgia Tech (Oct. 27).
"This schedule is stronger than last year by a lot," Mendenhall said. "In '13, it will be even better than that. This is a process. We're preparing for that on a daily basis, acknowledging the long term, but focusing on the short term."
There were no announcements Wednesday about future games, and Holmoe said scheduling continues to be a challenge.
"It's getting better. I wouldn't say it's getting easier. It's still hard to get great teams to play," Holmoe said. "Everybody's a little cautious because of the same uncertainty about the landscape of college football. Our fans look at us and say, 'You should be able to put a schedule together. You have all these openings.' But all the other big, powerful teams are hesitant too because their schedules have changed with the conference affiliations."
The Cougars posted a 10-3 record in 2011, marking the fifth time in the last six seasons they have earned double-digit victories.
"As the landscape shifts, it's great to see Bronco and his team continuing to be consistent," Holmoe said. "Bronco and his staff will strive to keep climbing that mountain to get better and better. But we haven't fallen off. Some teams have. I'm most proud of the fact the program continues to grow amidst all the things that are changing."17 comments on this story
While Mendenhall is pleased with what his program has accomplished in his seven seasons, he is anything but complacent.
"The idea of being satisfied or staying status quo is the exact opposite of how I feel," he said. "While I'm not going to discount anything that we've done — it's been fantastic and remarkable — I'm after more. That's the main message to our program. For them, that focus won't be on each single day ... To put it bluntly, there's going to be more expected now than ever before."
BYU kicks off the season Aug. 30 against Washington State at LaVell Edwards Stadium.