by Daniel Olsen | When the PAC-12 announced a conference only schedule, BYU found themselves in a bit of a pickle. As an FBS Independent the Cougars play 12 non-conference games per year. This becomes tricky when most conferences are looking to limit or eliminate their non-conference schedule. Many fans are wondering what to do and nobody is envying BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe’s job. Here are a couple solutions he might be thinking about.
Solution 1: Join a conference for one year
This isn’t as crazy as it might sound. Even though some conferences might question BYU’s intentions, it’s time to put that aside and see if they can join a conference just for a year. They wouldn’t officially join the conference but could just be the one team that all or most the teams in a particular conference schedules as a non-conference game.
They wouldn’t be eligible for the Conference Championship game but could still feel what it’s like to be in a conference. The most intriguing options would be the American, the Big 12 or (brace yourselves) the Mountain West.
BYU already has three Mountain West teams on the schedule so they could go schedule five more especially if things head south with other conferences. They could then schedule the two allowed FCS schools for their non-conference games.
Their dream would be to do something similar with the Big 12 but it seems unlikely that they get all the members on board for BYU to be their one non-conference game. The Mountain West is the most likely option for this solution. While the American is allowing up to four non-conference games, that is a lofty goal and closer options in the Mountain West could be safer travel options especially because BYU can travel to many of those cities by bus.
While there is still some bad blood regarding the messy breakup with the Mountain West, 2020 might be a year to set aside differences and schedule some fun matchups for old time’s sake.
Solution 2: Call up conferences allowing one or two non-conference games
This solution is somewhat similar to the first except it gives BYU more of an Independent feel if they are looking for that. It is more challenging and risky if conferences decide to get rid of non-conference games entirely later on. While is is a high risk it is also a high reward. Scheduling some big Power 5 names would bring more viewers and potentially more money for BYU.
The Cougars could schedule something like this:
Week 1: @ Navy
Week 2: @ Oklahoma State
Week 3: @ Texas Tech
Week 4: vs FCS Team 1
Week 5: vs Utah State
Week 6: at Virginia Tech
Week 7: vs Houston
Week 8: BYE
Week 9: at Boise State
Week 10: vs San Diego State
Week 11: vs FCS team 2
While this isn’t nearly as challenging as past BYU schedules, maybe that’s a good thing! The Cougars can keep some of their games while replacing the PAC-12, Big 10 and SEC games that they have lost. This would be a solid ten game schedule and this year that is the most BYU should consider scheduling given the physicality of football and lack of preparation time the Cougars have had due to COVID restrictions during spring ball.
Solution 3: Take whatever you can get
This is the contingency plan BYU should consider if all else fails. Schedule all the Independents. It might be hard to land a big fish like Notre Dame since the rumor is they might look to join the ACC just this year. That still leaves room to schedule four other FBS Independent teams. UConn just announced that they are cancelling their season. The eligible Independents would then be Army, New Mexico State, UMass and Liberty. Three of these schools have had some good games with BYU. Army has never played BYU but is one of several teams that BYU should consider scheduling. One bit of breaking news here is that Army’s biggest rival Navy is playing BYU in a primetime game on Labor Day. Perhaps Army gets in on the action and BYU could maybe play all the military schools. If they are all enlisted to play those teams, do they get a share of the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy? Probably not but it would be fun to see them play some solid teams.
While this would make it hard to schedule a full season, maybe the NCAA could bend the rules a little for the Cougars. Would BYU be allowed to schedule any of these Independents more than once? If all FCS or even Division II or III football programs don’t cancel their seasons, could BYU get more than two of those on the schedule? The NCAA might allow that in special circumstances if all non-conference games are banned.
While some of these plans might not be feasible, if you’re the BYU athletic director you have to explore all options during this time. It will be interesting to see what Tom Holmoe ends up scheduling for the BYU football team. No matter what, Coach Sitake and his staff are trying to prepare for a season in which their schedule is, for now, unknown.
Featured image via Athlon Sports.