What Is BYU’s Football Future With College Football Playoff Expansion?

Jul 9, 2021, 11:23 AM
Tom Holmoe - BYU AD...
The 2020 BYU Football schedule has been a wild ride. BYU AD Tom Holmoe has kept the Cougars flexible throughout the process. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)
(Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

PROVO, Utah – One question that is always asked of BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe during football media days is if the Cougars will join a conference or remain committed to being a football independent.

The expanded 12-team College Football Playoff could play a factor in what BYU football decides to do. On one hand, there are six spots open for an independent to make the field, and that likely will require a top-10 finish. However, on the other hand, being in any league and winning the conference is a viable path as the top-six rated conference champions earn a bid.

Joining a Power 5 league may not be the only option if getting a playoff bid is the ultimate goal. Going to the Mountain West or American would make it easier for the Cougars to pave a way to the playoff. However, if exposure and increased revenue is the goal, then a Power 5 league should be the ultimate goal.

These conference conversations are always there, according to Holmoe, but he is usually vague in his response. However, at the most recent BYU football media days, the AD opened up a bit more about what the future affiliation for the football program now that there is more playoff access.


“One of the things that we do every year is to examine where we are, where we’ve been and where we’re going,” Holmoe said in reference to the College Football Playoff. “So, right now, in light of that news, it would be our responsibility to make sure that we see what the environment looks like out there, what the atmospheres like, see what other people are talking about. There’s a lot of stuff that’s behind the scenes that doesn’t get out.”

BYU Is In A Win-Win Situation

Any move by BYU to join a conference is likely years away. The College Football Playoff expansion is at least two seasons away and the Cougars likely want to see how the playoff treats an independent team like BYU for a few years.

Last season, BYU would have been in the conversation for one of those final spots, so getting into a conference can continue to be a wait-and-see approach.

KSL Sports’ Scott Mitchell doesn’t see any downside to BYU in this new playoff era and they have plenty of options.

“If a program in the country benefits more for this expanded playoff, it’s BYU, and it doesn’t matter what they do,” Mithell said. “If they stay independent, fine. If they go to a conference, fine. It doesn’t have to be a Power Five conference. In fact, it might even be better if it’s not a Power Five conference because then they’re always competing for a champion. They’re always going to be that 10 win, maybe 11 win team. They’re going to be knocking on the door of one of those 12 spots.”

BYU is in a great spot to look at its options for the football team. It all depends on what their goal is. Playing six or more Power 5 teams a year to get that exposure by playing quality teams and pulling off an upset is good. Going to a Group of Five league with a schedule like in 2020 would provide a good chance of a 10-plus win season, and if they win that league they are going to be in the playoff.

The Cougars can wait out options and schedule accordingly over at least the next five years to see how BYU would fit into the expanded playoff. If year after year of 1o or 11 win seasons doesn’t get them close then going to the AAC or Mountain West would make sense.

Getting to be able to tell recruits that BYU is a playoff team would do so much for recruiting and help this program rise to even bigger heights. However, there is no rush to make a rash move but expect BYU to continue to slow play their football options and if there is a move it might not be until the end of this decade after there are years of data regarding the new 12-team playoff.

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What Is BYU’s Football Future With College Football Playoff Expansion?