Thursday’s report that the ACC wouldn’t consider BYU a “Big 5” opponent under its new scheduling rules had some Cougar fans running for the panic button. Now that the dust has settled and the initial emotional flares have died down, how much does this really matter?
BYU fans are right to be concerned, but it’s way too early to hit that panic button.
For those not familiar with this news, the SEC and now the ACC will require their members to play a member of the so-called "Big 5" every season starting in 2017. The "Big 5" comprises the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC with Notre Dame added as an independent. ESPN's Brett McMurphy reported on Twitter that the ACC will not count BYU as part of the "Big 5."
It’s easy to understand why BYU fans are concerned. The so-called “Big 5” conferences are trying to build a wall around themselves with as much of the prestige and money of college football as possible, and as of right now, the Cougars are on the outside looking in.
That’s nothing new. Ever since BYU won the national championship in 1984, power teams and conferences have tried to make sure that as few teams in as few select conferences as possible have a chance to win it all. In a nutshell, that’s what’s wrong with college football.
So, what does the ACC’s decision really change?
Certainly, this was a rude awakening for many fans about how at least two of the power conferences view BYU as an independent. It’s infuriating to Cougar fans to think that teams such as Indiana, Boston College, Wake Forest and Colorado will be considered power opponents while BYU will not. This move was a slap in BYU’s face, no doubt about it.
But again, what does that really change?
The Cougars have played just four ACC and SEC teams since the Cougars went independent. In comparison, BYU played seven Pac-12 teams. Out of the “Big 5,” BYU will play more games against the Pac-12. While the Pac-12 doesn’t seem to want BYU as part of its conference, there’s plenty of teams in that conference that are willing to play the Cougars.
The bulk of BYU’s “Big 5” opponents will come from the Pac-12, Big 12 and to a lesser extent the Big Ten. If Pac-12 teams stop scheduling the Cougars, then it’s time to panic. With games against Utah, Cal, USC, Arizona, Washington State, Arizona State and Stanford all on future schedules, the Cougars don’t have anything to worry about there.
BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe has the hardest job in the FBS, and this move does make his job a bit harder. With that in mind, Holmoe has done an incredible job with scheduling given the difficulties of being independent. Holmoe will have a harder time convincing ACC and SEC teams to play the Cougars given that they don’t fulfill these conferences silly new rules.
However, BYU does have a good relationship with a conference in the Eastern U.S.: The American Athletic Conference.
Conference commissioner Mike Aresco already said as much to USA Today: “Our league has almost developed a quasi-alliance with BYU. We really did that on purpose. They're gonna be in our first bowl game at Miami Beach and we've got a lot of teams playing them over the next five or six years two or three times, and we might even do more of that.”
That should be excellent news to BYU fans.
Sure, the American doesn’t have teams such as Florida State, Clemson and Virginia Tech of the ACC. That said, BYU probably has the same odds of scheduling those big-name teams as they did before Thursday’s report. So, isn’t playing teams such as UConn, Cincinnati, Central Florida and Houston on the same level or better of playing teams such as Boston College, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech and Virginia?
So, what’s really changed?
Yes, the ACC’s new silly elitist scheduling policy hurt BYU fans’ feelings. It’s certainly been an eye-opener to see where other conferences view BYU. The Cougars clearly have work to do to build its reputation, and not losing games such as the one against Virginia last season will certainly help.
But for now, it’s best to keep that panic button safely locked away under a thick layer of glass.
Lafe Peavler is a staff sports writer for the Deseret News. Follow him on Twitter @LafePeavler.