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BYU Media Day Takeaways

27 June 2013 Brett Richins
Bronco Mendenhall will lead BYU through 2016. BYU PHOTO

Bronco Mendenhall will lead BYU through 2016. BYU PHOTO

BYU held its third-annual National Football Media Day on Wednesday, and Cougar fans were hoping that they would get some real meat during their forced summer-time famine from football.

As luck would have it, they got their wish with athletic director Tom Holmoe making three significant announcements that included news regarding the future of the head coach, a new bowl agreement, and a new series with one of college football’s most recognized programs.

Here are some key takeaways from the event held at BYUtv’s broadcast facility.

1. Mendenhall gets his contract extension

Bronco Mendenhall and athletic director Tom Holmoe finalized a deal the day before National Media Day that extends Mendenhall’s contract through the 2016 season, giving him a high level of security as his team gets ready to face a challenging schedule this season.

Because BYU is a private institution, details such as dollar figures and buy-out clauses, etc. are not likely to be released. The administration could have waited to see how the 2013 season unfolded before coming to terms with their head coach, but getting a deal in place prior to the start of the season has the advantage of creating a good level of stability in the program.

It also points to the confidence Holmoe has in the changes that Bronco has made in the offensive coaching staff and their ability to turn things around on that side of the ball.

Assuming that Mendenhall finishes out this new deal, it will mean that he will have been at the helm in Provo for 12 years. When he took over the job in 2005, he expressed that he did not see himself as long-term guy. However, on Wednesday he said that his perspective has changed.

“BYU is a special place and this is a special time,” the coach said said. “I’m excited to build on the success of our program over the past eight years, and I think there’s much more that we can accomplish at BYU.”

He reiterated that his goal for the program is to win another national title. He also indicated that he understands that going 8-5, like the Cougars did last year, is unacceptable at BYU.

With a new contract securely in his back pocket, Bronco appeared more at ease with the media on Wednesday than perhaps at any time during his tenure as head coach. He also had some good laughs with members of his staff during their segments that were aired live on BYUtv.

Cougar fans and supporters will judge the wisdom of BYU re-upping on Mendenhall for another three years by the results of the 2013 season, particularly the game against arch-rival Utah. Bronco has failed to defeat the Utes in the last three tries and serious deficiencies on offense have led to a 25-14 record over the past three seasons after four consecutive years with 10 wins or more.

2. Three-game series with USC 

One of the biggest challenges in BYU’s move to independence has been to schedule meaningful games against name opponents late in the season when most teams are in the heat of their conference battles. So the new deal scheduled with the Trojans, that includes two games in late November at Los Angeles Coliseum in 2021 and 2023, is a real coup for Holmoe.

The deal is a 2-for-1 arrangement, with the first game scheduled for Sept. 14, 2019 in Provo. Though 2-for-1 is not ideal, it does show that the Cougars can schedule big-name opponents late in the season. In fact, it appears that both games in the Coliseum will be either the last or next to last games of the season.

The trade off is that the local fanbase could see fewer home games or an increase in games against lower-echelon FBS or FCS programs that would be willing to do one-and done games in Provo. The future could see fewer of these 2-for-1 deals, but for now they are necessary for the Cougars to move from where they were to were they want to be as a football independent.

In addition to USC, future opponents on the BYU schedule includes the likes of Notre Dame, Texas, Nebraska, Michigan, Wisconsin, Boise State, West Virginia, Virginia and Arizona. When BYU announced its independence, the stated goal was to schedule traditional powerhouse programs and play them in some of the nation’s top venues.

That goal is being realized.

The next step in the process will be to bring these big-name teams to Provo more often. That may not be realized for the next decade however, as college football settles into a new playoff era and the Cougars seek to establish themselves as more of a consistent player on the national scene.

Wins against the Longhorns, Fighting Irish or Badgers in 2013 could get the ball rolling in the right direction. It’s one thing to schedule these teams, but what the Cougars need are some victories in these big games to bolster the program’s national reputation and prestige.

3. Headed back to San Diego

Tom Holmoe also announced an agreement to play in the Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego in 2015. That’s assuming the Cougars are not participating in the college football playoffs which begin with the 2014 season.

Holmoe mentioned BYU’s great tradition of playing in San Diego during the post-season when the Cougars were a regular fixture in the Holiday bowl. While its good to have a home for the 2015 bowl season, the program is in need of landing better tie-ins.

Improving its bowl situation is one of the major keys for independence to work long term for BYU, and Holmoe said on Wednesday that he is in discussion with a number of other bowls. What the Cougars would like is some type of tie-in with one or more of the higher-level bowls not affiliated with the future playoff, but that doesn’t currently look to be in the cards.

Recently, BYU’s name has emerged as a possible participant for a proposed bowl in Los Angeles that would be named the Christmas Bowl. However, that bowl may not ever get off the ground and potential partners in the PAC-12 and Mountain West Conference have not been overly receptive at this point.

As it stands currently, the Cougars do not have a bowl agreement in place for the 2014 season. If that remains the case, they could very well find themselves hoping that some conferences fail to have enough bowl-eligible teams to fulfill all of their commitments to the bowls they are tied to. That’s the situation that Notre Dame finds itself in this season.

BYU needs all the help it can muster from broadcast partner ESPN/ABC in their effort to nail down a better bowl future. The network has the broadcast rights to the large majority of bowls, and even owns several of them. The “Mother Ship” has a vested interest in BYU’s success as an independent and should be in a position to pull a string or two.

Ideally, Holmoe would like a tiered arrangement with multiple bowls that would allow the Cougars to play in some of the bigger bowls when their record merits it, and slide to some of the lesser bowls if their record is less than stellar.

How things shake out with bowl agreements will dramatically effect BYU’s future viability as an independent.

Good news for 2013

The best news for the upcoming season coming out of Wednesday is that quarterbacks Taysom Hill and Ammon Olsen, along with wide receiver Cody Hoffman, are expected to be 100-percent healthy when fall camp opens on Aug. 3rd.

Hill suffered a season-ending knee injury against Utah State midway through the 2012 season, while Olsen sustained a PCL injury during the spring scrimmage in March. Hill is the clear starter headed into the 2013 season after starting two games last year, while Olsen seems to have all but sewed up the job as Taysom’s back up.

Hoffman underwent off-season surgery on a shoulder that Mendenhall revealed Wednesday has been bothering him for a couple of years now. The 6-4 senior is poised to become the school’s career leader in receptions, receiving yardage and receiving touchdowns.

The combination of Hill, Hoffman and sophomore running back Jamaal Williams could make for one of the most explosive trios in college football this year. If the Cougars can get the offense back on track, they could get back to double-digits wins despite the difficult schedule.

Be sure to share your thoughts from BYU’s Media Day…

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