BYU football: Fan-developed software gives Cougars player management edge
HEBER CITY — Most ardent sports fans like to think they’re more than willing to help out the program they cheer for, but few actually have the time, resources, and, most of all, know-how to actually provide meaningful assistance.
Meet Randy Larson, a local computer software engineer and big BYU fan whose volunteer efforts have benefited the football program immensely since sending a spontaneous email to athletic director Tom Holmoe aimed at simply expressing thanks.
What happened after sending that email has been unexpected and mutually beneficial.
“I just wanted to express thanks to Holmoe for everything BYU represents,” Larson explained. “At the end of the email, I simply asked them to let me know if there was anything I could do to help out. I wasn’t really expecting a response.”
BYU did respond to Larson’s inquiry — almost immediately. "Within 30 minutes Tom Holmoe had forwarded my email and I was in touch with someone that subsequently met with me."
BYU quickly learned about his professional background and talents. After a few very quick conversations it was determined that he might be able to help out with the task of keeping track of player personnel, past, present and future.
Not even close.
Any school has to deal with all of the elements of managing its scholarships, eligibility of players and rosters. Add in the increased complication of mission comings and goings, and personnel becomes even more intricate and enormously time consuming.
And that’s just for the players who have already joined the program.
What about tracking the hundreds of prospects and recruits from year-to-year? Organizing an extremely fluid process, like recruiting, is imperative when a program is seeking to attract the very best possible players to the program.
Keeping track of every player — current or future — is something BYU has done remarkably well considering the unique challenges involved with planning around missionaries.
“It’s not that BYU can’t do it or hasn’t done it extremely well, for the most part, but that it’s taken them a lot of time,” Larson explained. “Much of the tracking and organization until recently was done on whiteboards and in a myriad of separate systems in the football offices. What BYU wanted was a computer program to consolidate and accurately track the critical information related to personnel decisions, and organize it in a format that allowed them to not only show where they are now, but what their roster looks like and personnel needs will be year over year."
It's a program that any coach can log into at any time to update, which keeps everyone up to speed on where players stand.
"Really, they wanted more than a management program, they wanted an intuitive program personnel forecasting tool that started with recruiting and lasted through graduation. In the end, that is what we created," Larson added.
The genius of Larson's program is its ease of use.
One simply creates a profile page for any given player or recruit that contains all the vital information, and every other page is updated accordingly. The sections include depth charts, scholarships, LDS mission service, recruiting commitments, and those being recruited.
Color coding is involved for every aspect from a high recruiting need, academic standing and everything else.
"Coaches are now able to click on any page and immediately learn how any player is doing in every aspect from academic, social to how they stand on the depth chart and how ready they are to contribute on the field," Larson said. "It really helps with recruiting since every need is right there for them by position as well as overall scholarship counts for the coming year and subsequent years."
BYU has been using Larson's software since right before the 2012 season and has raved about its benefits since.
"They're happy and I'm just thankful to help out," Larson said. "I love what BYU stands for and what it represents. I feel the football program is doing great things, so to help out with that, in any way, is something I was more than willing to do."
The help Larson provided was far more than a weekend project or even a monthly project. All-in-all, Larson ballparked the time involved as being $40,000 to $50,000 worth of work.
"I'd easily spend at least 15 hours per week on it and I'm still working on it," he said. "It's functional, but it's not finished, and I'm continually working on ways to update it and make it better.
"At the end of the day, I just hope that what started out as a desire to volunteer and help out in a way that could support what BYU stands for might inspire someone else to do the same," Larson added. "I might suggest to others to search for a way to make meaningful contribution to a cause and do it, you never know what might happen."
Larson is now looking to market his product to programs other than BYU. With his brother-in-law, Jay Garlick, the two of them have formed what they've dubbed "athleteforecast."
"We've already shown it to some other college programs and we've received positive feedback," Garlick said. "What we're hoping to do from here is expand this to help out with all collegiate sports programs — not just football. From there we want to expand to high schools and even recruiting services. What we've done with BYU is the beginning of something we think could really benefit other sports programs."
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