Big Names Lining Up to Face Cougars
Just because you haven’t heard BYU announce any new future football games recently, doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot going on that hasn’t been made public yet.
The truth be told, the BYU administration and coaching staff have been blown away by the number and quality of programs that are trying to line up for a chance to play the Cougars on the ESPN family of networks.
You may have heard BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe comment multiple times in the media over the past several months about how surprised he has been by the number of high-profile programs that have shown interest in scheduling games with BYU.
He’s not kidding.
It appears that one of the developing issues in this new world of independence for the Cougars is a real concern about over-scheduling themselves with powerhouse teams if they take every opportunity that is presenting itself. The response has been overwhelming, and as Holmoe has stated publicly, the key is to have some semblance of balance in the schedule.
That said, Deep Shades of Blue has learned that BYU is well down the trail of striking deals with several big-name opponents. In some cases, deals are done with certain schools, with BYU and ESPN biding their time for the right moment to make the announcements.
Holmoe was apparently ready to release some of the games to the public at the same time that Utah and the PAC-12 announced its new TV mega deal. The decision was then made to delay the announcement of those games until a time that the Cougars can be front and center in media reports.
Among the scheduling news to come, the Cougars appear set to face multiple Big Ten programs, a collection of teams that the Cougars have rarely faced, except in the occasional bowl in years gone by.
As has been rumored for a while now, it does appear as if BYU is close to announcing a three-game series with Wisconsin and Nebraska. Both series will reportedly include a game in each team’s home stadium, as well as at a neutral site. The biggest challenge in finalizing these deals has been the arrangement of neutral site locations.
Deep Shades of Blue has also learned that a similar series is in the works with Penn State. According to sources close to the program, BYU has been able to leverage the long-time friendship between LaVell Edwards and Joe Paterno in order to rekindle their series from the early 1990’s.
Also according to inside sources, another home-and-home series is in the works with USC, while the Trojan’s crosstown rival, UCLA, has approached BYU about starting up another set of games. The Cougars and Bruins have squared off 10 times over the past 28 seasons, with UCLA holding a 7-3 advantage. BYU has won the last two games in the series however, including a 59-0 shellacking of the Bruins in Provo in their last meeting in 2008.
Since the announcement that the football program would go independent just nine months ago, BYU has announced a six-game series with Notre Dame, a four-game series with Georgia Tech, a two-game series with Hawaii, a two-game series with Central Florida and neutral-site games with West Virginia and TCU. A two-game series with Texas was announced just days before BYU announced it was going independent.
One interesting tidbit for Cougars fans is that BYU has turned down some game opportunities presented to them by ESPN. One source told Deep Shades of Blue that BYU has adopted the stance that they will not look at taking anything less than $1 million to make a road appearance on the “worldwide leader in sports”. The same source says that the Cougars will get paid as much $2 million in some instances.
One of the reasons a dollar figure has never surfaced for ESPN’s contract with BYU is that the deal is essentially open-ended, with a guaranteed minimum (rumored to be around $8 million per year). Then, as various opportunities present themselves, the two parties will negotiate additional financial terms. The result is that BYU stands to make much more revenue from the deal than anyone outside of the inner circle has considered, perhaps as much as 12 to 13 million per year.
In recent days a rumor has also surfaced regarding BYU potentially joining the Big East Conference. Deep Shades of Blue has learned that the conference did indeed contact BYU about becoming a football-only member, but that the proposal was turned down by the BYU administration.
Big East programs have been among the many schools that have been talking to BYU about future games.
BYU seems very focused on making football independence work in a big way, and despite the lack of news coming out of Provo, it appears the Cougars are making significant headway in putting together the kind of schedule that was envisioned when the decision was made to embark on a path to independence.
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