by Daniel Olsen | While almost half of FBS teams are cancelling their college football season this fall, the BYU Cougars remain optimistic in playing their season despite only having three games left on the schedule. The Cougars are upbeat in their fall camp practices as they are getting ready to face the Navy Midshipmen in Annapolis, Maryland. It will be a primetime game on ESPN on Labor Day.
BYU has a real opportunity to make some noise this fall if they can play even a couple of primetime games. Here are some keys to making this a positive experience for the student athletes that will benefit the program from a branding standpoint.
Key #1: BYU After Dark
One great part about Independence is the Cougars aren’t tied down by the decision of a conference. They will be one of the only FBS programs west of the Rocky Mountains to play college football this fall now that the Mountain West and PAC-12 have cancelled their seasons. With their ESPN TV deal, we could be seeing more viewership to bring increased notoriety to the school.
BYU could be the only game on late at night since it’s the only west coast school that can fill that primetime slot in this time zone. It might have to be a little earlier on the road when they play out east, but you can expect to see most BYU games on national television this fall sometime between 6 and 8:30 PM MST.
Key #2: Implement Strict Regulations to Prevent COVID-19
Perhaps the most worrisome part about playing football this fall is the risk that student athletes and possibly others involved with Brigham Young University will get the virus and cause an outbreak. There needs to be testing at least once per week. The Power 5 Conferences that are still playing this fall (SEC, Big 12 and ACC) are planning on testing the football players as much as three times per week. That can be an expensive protocol when you factor how many players are on the football roster at BYU.
The Cougars will need to decide an appropriate monetary amount to spend in order to ensure the safety of their athletes. Ensuring safety is important not only for the athletes’ safety, but also for the image of the University and the state. BYU is already under a microscope as many of their decisions and events that transpire end up in the local – and sometimes national – news. If BYU wants to land more top recruits, they need to show that they are willing to put the student athlete experience first while maintaining safe protocols to help everyone stay healthy. If team members violate those protocols there should be serious consequences, including suspensions.
Key #3: Win Win Win No Matter What
This may be obvious, but in a shortened season with less (or possibly zero) P5 teams on the schedule, the Cougars need to finally string together a great win-loss record. They have defeated some impressive teams. However, their strength of schedule is usually so tough that they lose to a couple Power 5 teams and then the season unravels from there. It’s challenging to play so many Power 5 teams and the heightened level of physicality results in more injuries. This makes it hard for BYU to beat the inferior Group of 5 teams when they are bruised physically and sometimes mentally.
As it stands right now, the BYU Cougars should be able to win at least three if not all four of their scheduled games. They are currently scheduled to play Navy, Troy, Houston and possibly move up the game against Northern Alabama. If they can get in on the one game non-conference schedule with some mid-tier Power 5 or quality G5 schools and play at least six games, then BYU fans should be ecstatic given the circumstances. Don’t schedule unbeatable teams like Clemson or Alabama. It’s true that BYU can pull a rabbit out of the hat sometimes, but they need to establish themselves as a top team first.
Lavell Edwards didn’t coach the Cougars to stellar victories overnight. It took a couple Holiday Bowls before they won the National Title in 1984. It took a few Heisman-level quarterbacks before the Cougars took down the #1 ranked Miami Hurricanes. Schedule some ACC team from North Carolina in football (not basketball please) and keep flirting with Big 12 schools with the ulterior motive of getting into the conference one day.
It’s a difficult situation, but the Cougar football players are ready to play, the coaches are ready to coach and the fans are ready to fan. It’s time to get the COVID Cougar Football plan out and execute it. Let’s play ball!
P.S. Cougar Defense: please socially distance off the field but wreak havoc on the opposing offenses on the field. Go Cougs!
Featured image via The Daily Herald.