PROVO — ESPN turned Ty Detmer into a national star.
There was the night in Provo when the skinny quarterback from Texas led BYU to an improbable 28-21 upset of No. 1 ranked, and defending national champion, Miami, on ESPN. That game helped Detmer earn the 1990 Heisman Trophy later that year.
Then, there was the explosive 52-52 tie against San Diego State, also televised by ESPN, as Detmer rallied the Cougars from a 45-17 second-half deficit in 1991.
"Guys like Babe Laufenberg, who was a backup quarterback with the Dallas Cowboys at that time, told me, 'We stayed up all night watching you against San Diego State in that 52-52 tie,'" Detmer recalled with a smile. "Babe said, 'It was the night before a game and we couldn't go to sleep. We started coming back and we couldn't turn it off.' There were people with no associations with either school that would stay up and watch those games."
That's why Detmer is thrilled by BYU's eight-year broadcasting contract with ESPN as the Cougars embark on independence.
"I think it's great. Most of the games when BYU's been on ESPN have been good, exciting games," Detmer said. "ESPN is probably excited for that style of play. A lot of teams are throwing it now, but BYU has always had that relationship with ESPN. I think it's great for people across the country."
Detmer, who coaches high school football in Texas, is among those who have been frustrated with the inability to watch Cougar games on TV in recent years. Now, all Cougar contests will be broadcast on national television on the ESPN family of networks or on BYUtv.
Trevor Matich, an ESPN college football analyst, and center on BYU's 1984 national championship team, is also looking forward to his alma mater's partnership with ESPN.
"It's awesome. The best thing about it is, it gives greater awareness to who these athletes are," Matich said. "BYU went independent for reasons other than the money. Most of the time when people say it's not about the money, it's about the money. They went independent because they see their athletic program as an ambassador for the university and for the (LDS Church).
"The media platform wasn't what they wanted it to be. Now, they have more eyeballs on these young men and young women in this athletic program. It's a real positive thing for the greater mission of the church and the greater mission of the university.
"The thing I'm most excited about is that kids that do the right things when no one is looking are going to have a national platform. Occasionally, they'll fall short because they're human. But we'll see how they pick themselves up. I'm excited for the play on the field but I'm especially excited for kids who deserve credit and for kids who need to be an example for other people."
Matich points out BYU's long history with ESPN. He and the Cougars played in the network's first live college football telecast when BYU upset No. 3 Pittsburgh in 1984.
ESPN's respect for BYU as an institution has grown since it hired former Cougar quarterback Steve Young as an analyst, Matich said.
"A lot of BYU kind of became real at ESPN when Steve Young got there because it was sort of abstract to people who work there. It was a concept. Then they got to know Steve, and what kind of a man he is. Because of their tremendous respect for Steve, BYU became a real thing for them. There's a lot of respect for BYU institutionally and what it stands for. The more people like Steve get the publicity that he's gotten, and get out into the world, the better it is for the school. Jimmer (Fredette) is doing that now."
The relationship between BYU and ESPN should be mutually beneficial, Matich said.
"Do keep this in mind. There's no charity involved here. ESPN is a smart, nimble, powerful, creative business force. They wanted to partner with BYU, in my opinion, because it's a smart, nimble, powerful business decision. And BYU brings a lot to the table. They'll need to win in order for it pay off for both sides. But I think it speaks well of BYU that ESPN sees them as such a powerful partner when ESPN can be partners with whoever they want to be."