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The Answer for BYU Football? Just Win Baby!

23 June 2014 Brett Richins

FB Media DayBYU played host to local and national media members during its football media day on Monday.

Many of the questions asked by reporters had to do with the school’s future as a football independent.

Those inquiries were sparked by a recent interview head coach Bronco Mendenhall gave to the Austin American-Statesman.

In that interview he was quoted as saying, “We would love to be in the Big 12. I would love to be a member of that conference. I think that would make a lot of sense.”

His response has gotten a lot of play nationally over the past couple of weeks and has raised the question as to whether or not BYU is stepping up its efforts be included in one of the so-called Power-5 conferences.

Mendenhall said on Monday that his comments made earlier this month came across exactly as he intended it to. He also mentioned that they were not something that was orchestrated by BYU’s athletic department. That was also made clear by athletic director Tom Holmoe.

“He’s a coach, and I was a coach, and sometimes those emotions of a coach run a little bit higher. And I understand that,” Holmoe explained. “I think that I have a different approach to it, although we have similar goals in mind.”

Of course, the concern of many is that the Cougars could be left out in the cold as the schools in the Power-5 seek to consolidate their power and further separate themselves from the have-nots of college football. Conferences like the ACC and SEC have already said that they will require their schools to schedule at least one game with programs from the other P-5 conferences or Notre Dame.

When BYU asked about receiving a similar scheduling inclusion as the one Notre Dame received, the Cougars were essentially told to pound sand by both the ACC and SEC.

The good news however is that the schools from both of those conferences still appear willing to schedule BYU, and Holmoe eluded to that fact on Monday.

“The reality of it is that we’re continuing to schedule and talk with schools from those conferences,” Holme said. “We will continue to play teams from every conference… I think the fun thing about it is that they are calling us.

“It really hasn’t changed the business of us scheduling those teams in those conferences. As a matter fact, there are a couple of games on the horizon–too bad it wasn’t ready for today–but there are a couple of games that we’re going to have some fun announcing and I think that will settle a lot of people’s minds.”

Whether BYU’s football future is as an independent or a member of a major conference remains to be seen, but everybody concerned agrees that the most important thing for the program right now is to win. The Cougars could open a lot of doors by following the admonition of late Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis, who famously quipped, “Just win, baby!”

“The easy way for us to address all of it is to play really good football,” Mendenhall said. “Where we want to go, every game is a must win.”

The Cougars can’t control much of what is going to happen in the future, but they can control what they accomplish on the field of play. Everybody loves a winner. That includes the brass of the major conferences, TV networks, bowl games as well as college football fans around the country.

As was reiterated several times during media day, BYU does have a national brand that has been forged over the past four decades through success on the gridiron and offensive innovation. That brand has allowed the program to go independent and work its own TV deal with ESPN.

The problem is that the brand has been somewhat diminished recently as the Cougars have posted two consecutive five-loss seasons and failed to make any kind of real splash since going independent. There was the big win over Texas last season, but disappointing losses to struggling programs like Virginia and Utah as well.

Against solid BCS-level competition in 2013 the Cougars were too easily contained in losses to Wisconsin, Notre Dame and Washington. In those three defeats the offense averaged just 15 points per game. Those losses overshadowed the blowout win over the Longhorns as BYU finished the year out of the national consciousnesses once again.

What the program needs is an infusion of several double-digit win seasons much like Mendenhall and the Cougars put together from 2006 through 2009. It’s what is necessary to stir interest nationally and re-energize a frustrated fanbase.

It just so happens that the 2014 schedule could be what the doctor ordered to get things rolling again. An easier schedule this season combined with expected improvement on offense should translate into a lot of tick more marks in the win column. In fact, anything less than double-digit wins this season would be a major disappointment.

The Cougars don’t necessarily need to go undefeated or make the new college football playoff this year, but they do need to find a way to become relevant again by winning more often and scoring a lot of points in the process.

It would be a big help if they could establish a solid foundation in 2014 to perhaps set the table for a 2015 slate that begins with consecutive games against Nebraska, Boise State, UCLA and Michigan. Winning two or three early games against that type of schedule could help open doors on multiple levels.

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