How Latter-day Saint Missionaries Returning Early Due To Coronavirus Impacts BYU Football

Mar 27, 2020, 2:31 PM | Updated: Mar 28, 2020, 10:10 pm

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Photo Courtesy of BYU Photo/Jaren Wilkey

PROVO, Utah – The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints missionaries around the world have been returning home early due to the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic. It’s unprecedented for that to happen and could create an unprecedented impact on the BYU Football program.

At the moment, there are 47 BYU Football players (scholarship and walk-on athletes) currently serving missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Three of the 47 have already returned home due to the Coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak. Defensive end Tanner Baker, walk-on kicker Cash Peterman, and defensive back Jaylon Vickers.

Baker was expected to return home this spring, but Peterman was originally set for an August return date and Vickers still had 14 months left to serve his Latter-day Saint mission.

With BYU’s 85 scholarships already accounted for in 2020 and a limited number of spots available on the fall roster, it has the potential for some drastic juggling for head coach Kalani Sitake with the scholarships in 2020.

How will Sitake and his staff handle the potential huge influx of new faces into his program that he wasn’t expecting this season?

“That’s something that’s probably more a case by case deal,” Sitake said. “We’ve asked the players that are coming from their missions for some patience and understanding knowing the situation. But I think keeping that line of communication is important for us and to see how things are going for them.

“There’s a system where they’re coming home and adjusting with that 14-day period and many of them are getting reassigned a different area. The focus is still on the present and the day-to-day and then trying to educate them as much as possible and also try to be upfront and honest with them. The scholarship numbers are also an issue whenever you’re dealing with missionaries and the time of returning from missions. But this is just another adjustment that we have to make.”

When Latter-day Saint Missionaries could be returning

That system Sitake was referring to was from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who sent a release and reassign matrix to families that outlines when their sons and daughters could be returning home.

  • Elders serving in the U.S. and Canada will be released at the 21-month mark of their mission.


  • Returning home for health reasons will leave missionaries released from service and required to have a 14-day quarantine.


  • Elders returning to the U.S. and Canada who have fewer than 180 days remaining on their mission will be released and have a 14-day quarantine.


  • Elders returning to the U.S. and Canada who have more than 180 days remaining on their mission will not be released from service. Will have a 14-day quarantine and then be temporarily reassigned.


  • All other missionaries will complete their mission as scheduled.

With these new guidelines in place from the Latter-day Saint church, all BYU Football players that were expected to return during the 2020 calendar year will be home well before fall camp potentially begins in August.

Players such as Viliami Tausinga, a former East High standout at linebacker, Kearns graduate Isaac Matua, and linebacker/defensive end Oliver Nasilai weren’t expected to return until the 2020 season began. Now that timeline moves up significantly. Those three players were going to be scholarships distributed in January 2021 at the earliest and it highlights some of the jugglings that will need to take place.

That’s just one example of the delicate balance Sitake will need to find with these 85 scholarships.

Could the NCAA grant BYU scholarship relief for the 2020 season?

Let’s face it, these are unprecedented times that are we currently living in at the moment. All of these Latter-day Saint missionaries returning home is because of a global pandemic. Not anything to do with the university of the student-athletes.

With BYU being the only program that has this large of a number of missionaries, could the NCAA grant relief to the Cougars in 2020 with their scholarship limit?

“I think the NCAA has got something in the back of their minds, Sitake said. “Looking at the scholarships and if you’re there awarding an extra year of eligibility (spring sports) then they have to do something with the scholarship numbers and they have to be able to adjust somewhere along the way.

“The adjustments that the NCAA is making … I think they’re more mindful of trying to get things [fairer] and keeping in mind the needs of the student-athlete.”

BYU Football Missionaries

Here’s the list of BYU Football players currently serving missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Cade Albright, Defensive End

Talan Alfrey, Safety

Trey Andersen, Offensive Tackle/Tight End

Campbell Barrington, Offensive Line

Chayce Bolli, Wide Receiver

Lincoln Bunker, Safety/Linebacker

Jacob Conover, Quarterback

Michael Daley, Defensive End/Linebacker

Coner Ebeling, Safety

Ethan Erickson, Tight End

Hunter Greer, Defensive End

Brock Gunderson, Offensive Line

Ryan Gunn, Offensive/Defensive Line

Brock Heideman, Defensive Line

Cade Hoke, Linebacker

Dallin Holker, Tight End

Jake Jensen, Quarterback

Carter Krupp, Athlete

Tysen Lewis, Offensive Line

Brooks Maile, Defensive Line

Isaac Matua, Linebacker

Bruce Mitchell, Offensive Line

Oliver Nasilai, LB/Defensive End

Nick Nethercott, Athlete

Parker Nicoll, Defensive End

Alex Palmer, Running Back

Jacob Palu, Offensive Line

Connor Pay, Offensive Line

Jacob Pedersen, Athlete

Isaiah Ramos, Wide Receiver

Dalton Riggs, Long Snapper/Defensive Line

Chase Roberts, Wide Receiver

Ethan Slade, Defensive Back

Justen Smith, Kicker

Bailey Sulzer, Running Back

Viliami Tausinga, Linebacker

Michael Thorson, Offensive Line

Ben Tuipulotu, Tight End

Tanner Wall, Athlete

Benjamin Ward, Tight End

Coronavirus Resources

How Do I Prevent It?

The CDC has some simple recommendations, most of which are the same for preventing other respiratory illnesses or the flu:

  • Avoid close contact with people who may be sick
  • Avoid touching your face
  • Stay home when you are sick
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and then throw the tissue in the trash
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. Always wash your hands with soap and water if your hands are visibly dirty.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

The CDC does not recommend wearing a face mask respirator to protect yourself from coronavirus unless a healthcare professional recommends it.

How To Get Help

If you’re worried you may have COVID-19, you can contact the Utah Coronavirus Information Line at 1-800-456-7707 to speak to trained healthcare professionals. You can also use telehealth services through your healthcare providers.

Additional Resources

If you see evidence of PRICE GOUGING, the Utah Attorney General’s Office wants you to report it. Common items in question include toilet paper, water, hand sanitizer, certain household cleaners, and even cold medicine and baby formula. Authorities are asking anyone who sees price gouging to report it to the Utah Division of Consumer Protection at 801-530-6601 or 800-721-7233. The division can also be reached by email at [email protected].

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12-3 pm) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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How Latter-day Saint Missionaries Returning Early Due To Coronavirus Impacts BYU Football