Obviously schools are in the homestretch of their conference schedule in November, so scheduling games can be a challenge. We are working with some conferences to consider occasional exceptions that would benefit both parties. —BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe
Editor's note: This is the fourth in an occasional series exploring the issues related to BYU scheduling football games as an independent.
PROVO — What are the two biggest complaints BYU fans have expressed when it comes to scheduling as an independent?
Lackluster games in November and late-night kickoffs.
Well, Cougar faithful can’t gripe about this season’s November schedule. And, so far, kickoff times for 2013 are favorable, too. BYU opens November with a bye, followed by a road game at Wisconsin and a game at LaVell Edwards Stadium against Idaho State in the home finale. The month ends with back-to-back contests at Notre Dame and Nevada.
The 2013 regular-season finale will be a homecoming for BYU linebacker Kyle Van Noy, who hails from Reno, Nev. Van Noy decided to return for his senior year rather than declare himself eligible for the National Football League draft.
It’s been difficult for BYU to schedule in November, a time when most teams are hip-deep in conference play. It will continue to be tough in the future.
"Obviously schools are in the homestretch of their conference schedule in November, so scheduling games can be a challenge," said BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe. "We are working with some conferences to consider occasional exceptions that would benefit both parties. It's one of the realities of being an independent football program. There are certainly pros and cons, but the exposure has been fantastic — even better than I thought it would be."
"There are two things that have become very difficult (about scheduling as an independent) — it's getting the very best teams to come to Provo, and then filling our schedule late in the season,” said coach Bronco Mendenhall.
“The teams that are in conferences find it very risky to stop conference play to come to Provo and play BYU," Mendenhall continued. "There's a lot of risk to them because they're playing a quality opponent and they might lose momentum. They might sustain injuries going back into conference play. In 2013, we're not playing the last two games in Provo, but at Notre Dame and at Nevada. We’ve got Wisconsin, a road game. They're all good opponents. Eventually, we'll be able to get I think good opponents in Provo. It's a continued work in progress."
BYU and Notre Dame signed a contract for a six-game series in 2010, with four games in South Bend and two in Provo. The Cougars traveled to Notre Dame last season and they return this fall. No future games have been scheduled.
While the Fighting Irish signed a scheduling arrangement with the Atlantic Coast Conference last year, Holmoe said that hasn't affected the BYU-Notre Dame series.
"We haven't heard a word from Notre Dame, other than the fact that we've talked (with Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick) about the series and how it has been good,” Holmoe said. “We’re going back there this year. There could be something in the future, but at this point there is no issue that has been brought up about the BYU-Notre Dame football series."
Holmoe added that Notre Dame "comes here a few years down the road. It takes a long time off."
When it comes to kickoff times, BYU has had to play some late-night contests starting at 8 p.m. the last two seasons. Those can be difficult for fans, particularly when they have to brave bitterly cold temperatures in November.
This season, the Cougars will play Virginia at 1:30 p.m. (MDT) in the season opener. BYU faces Utah State and Boise State at 6 p.m., and games against Notre Dame and Nevada, both on the road, are slated for 1:30 p.m. and 1 p.m., respectively.
“We don’t determine start times. That’s a TV issue,” Holmoe explained. “When you see TV contracts with conferences, they don’t have a say in it. Whenever they can get on TV, they’ll be on TV. We have an agreement with ESPN — some of it is written, some of it is not — that we try our very best to play day games or prime-time games. But it depends on how good we are. The better we are, the more we can have better game times. If we’re struggling or not great, then they’re going to put us where they can, because they are going to be on TV.”