The Pac-12 presidents and chancellors may never include BYU because of “cultural differences,” but that hasn’t kept league athletic directors and coaches from scheduling the Cougar football team through the next decade.
Call it a mutual aid society of football: You help us, we’ll help you.
One can probably remember those couple of weeks this past spring when ACC and SEC commissioners told reporters those leagues wouldn’t recommend BYU as a non-conference game to fill out schedules in anticipating tweaking opponents for the upcoming college football playoff.
The reaction in Utah was predictable. Some Cougar fans got their undies tangled running to their minivans. Some radio talking heads jacked it up as a sign BYU was now and forever definitely a Power 5 conference outsider and it was the end of the world. Hand-wringing ruled. At the speed of light, emails piled up in the inbox of BYU Athletic Director Tom Holmoe.
In the meantime, Holmoe was puzzled. What was the big deal? He still talks contracts with SEC and ACC folks as an independent contractor. And the Pac-12 is more than willing to work with the Cougars and their independent scheduling needs.
The Pac-12 teams are a natural non-conference fit for that league. Most road trips by charter are 90 minutes or so; teams can fly right into Provo if needed. Fans can generally get in their cars for a long weekend road trip. LaVell Edwards Stadium can meet necessary gate guarantees, and with ESPN as a partner to broker some time and dates, the Pac-12 comes out a winner all the way around.
Pac-12 presidents may struggle with BYU because they can’t share a pre-game cocktail, but their minions doing the lifting don’t mind the neighborhood at all.
It makes total sense. To get to a Power 5 non-conference foe, the closest are in Texas, Kansas, Nebraska or Minnesota, half a continent away.
Arizona Athletic Director Greg Byrne put it simply and succinctly last week while speaking to a broadcast entity in the Pac-12: “We consider BYU a Power 5 opponent, and that’s why we’ve contracted with them for three future games.”
This might be a good topic to bring up this week as the Pac-12 football media days kick off — the BYU scheduling consortium.
BYU has scheduled at least 19 games with Pac-12 teams through 2025, and that doesn’t included games expected to be under contract with Utah after the next Cougar-Ute deal is executed for three games through 2018.
These games include this year’s Nov. 29 game at the University of California-Berkeley, next year’s Cougar game at UCLA and future games with the Bruins, Arizona, ASU, USC and Stanford through the next 11 seasons with possibly more to come.
In Monday’s Los Angeles Times, a story reminding readers of the Bruin series with BYU had a headline that read: “UCLA Football: Bruins beef up future schedules.”
In the brief story by Chris Foster, the lead paragraph read: “UCLA continues to strengthen its future schedules, something that can only help the Bruins under the new college football playoff.” In his next paragraph, the first team mentioned was BYU. In the third paragraph, Foster mentions the Bruins have added Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Fresno State, San Diego State, Rutgers, LSU and Michigan through 2023.
At BYU’s football media day in June, I asked Holmoe if he thought he needed a formal scheduling agreement with the SEC, ACC or other conferences to meet his program’s needs in this current atmosphere. He replied BYU can get the job done with or without and discounted the SEC and ACC furor as nothing more than an idea, not a brick-wall hurdle.
In the dead heat of summer, it's interesting how these things unfold.
One man’s non-Power 5 castaway is another’s convenient buddy.
This is how crazy college football has become.
The difference may only be a few thousand pounds of jet fuel.
Dick Harmon, Deseret News sports columnist, can be found on Twitter as Harmonwrites and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.