PROVO — Among the opportunities, and challenges, of independence is playing in a variety of geographic locations against a variety of styles of football.
That's why BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall and his staff have visited a number of National Football League teams, including the Oakland Raiders and Houston Texans, during the off-season.
It's all about learning.
"Gaining knowledge, preparing for a brand-new stage of our program, more significant competition, more diversity of opponents, more differences in terms of areas of the country we're going to be playing over the next couple of years, and trying to improve our team," Mendenhall explained Wednesday during media day. "The purest form of competitive advantage is knowledge. I've made a huge emphasis to our staff to gain more."
THE UTAH SERIES: BYU and Utah are set to play Sept. 15 at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
But the long-time rivals aren't scheduled to meet beyond that.
"I don't know a good reason why we wouldn't play. It makes no sense to me," Mendenhall said. "As long as the rivalry has been in place, as important as it is to this state, and to so many people here, I'm anxious to hear what the reason would be to not play the game. To me, you start with the BYU-Utah game and then you work from there. It's the game your schedule starts with, in terms of importance."
THURSDAY NIGHT SPECIAL: ESPN announced recently that the BYU-Boise State game has been moved from Saturday, Sept. 22 to Thursday, Sept. 20.
That's just five days after the Cougars visit arch-rival Utah.
But Mendenhall said he has no misgivings about that scheduling change.
"Boise has the same number of days that we do. To me, that game, on the biggest stage — Thursday is a bigger stage than Saturday — is a great thing for our program. I was excited about it."
ALUMS IN THE HOUSE: A host of former Cougar players attended media day to tape a segment on BYUtv about the Mendenhall Era, including John Beck, Max Hall, Austin Collie, Dennis Pitta, Curtis Brown, Fui Vakapuna, and Vic So'oto.
PLAYERS OUT: The football careers of safety Jray Galea'i and wide receiver Rhen Brown are over due to medical reasons, Mendenhall said. Both will remain in school.
EXTRA POINTS: BYU is in the process of hiring a new head trainer. Kevin Morris, who held that position the last several years, has left the program. Morris has been called as an LDS bishop and is going into private practice … Mendenhall said he's intrigued by idea of moving the BYU-USU game from LDS General Conference weekend to the final game of the season each year … Defensive backs coach Nick Howell won the coaching staff's "eco challenge" (which included biking, running and swimming) held last weekend.