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BYU Football’s Scheduling Priorities In Big 12 Era Are Coming Into Focus

Jan 28, 2022, 2:12 AM
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Fans cheer as BYU and Arizona State compete during an NCAA college football game at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021. (Shafkat Anowar, Deseret News)
(Shafkat Anowar, Deseret News)

PROVO, Utah – The schedule has always been a big topic for BYU football over the years. It’s only going to continue to be a hot topic as BYU transitions from life as an Independent to Power 5 livin’ in the Big 12 Conference.

Which non-conference games will remain? How many conference games will be played in the Big 12? There are a lot of questions that still need answers, but the pieces are beginning to come together.

BYU Athletic Director Tom Holmoe provided some insight into the future of the football schedules when the Cougars join the Big 12 Conference during his semi-annual media roundtable.

BYU Football has a desire to play Utah & Utah State

One area that will be a priority for Holmoe, who is in the middle of his 17th year as BYU’s AD, is the in-state games against Utah and Utah State.

“I’d say yes, for the in-state schools. I think that’s important,” Holmoe said. “We have a really good tradition of playing the in-state schools. But for at least the initial part of our schedule, we won’t be able to in some areas. We’re still trying to figure that out early in.”

BYU and Utah don’t play again until 2024. However, Utah State appears on each of BYU’s schedules from 2023 to 2026.

“I’m taking eight or nine teams and removing them from schedules beginning in 2023. And we’re scheduled out probably ’26, ’27, fully. So for those years, we’re trying to take teams out, not add teams. So, would we want to play Utah, Utah State? Yes. I’ll comment on those because those are in-state.”

There are two in-state foes on BYU’s 2023 schedule, the first year in the Big 12. Utah State and new WAC member Southern Utah. The T-Birds are a member of the Football Championship Subdivision. Holmoe wasn’t asked about FCS games specifically. But it’s hard to imagine a scenario where money games against FCS foes do not appear on the schedule when BYU is in the Big 12.

In November, BYU head coach Kalani Sitake was asked by KSL Sports if games against FCS teams would continue in the Big 12 era. Sitake replied, “I think that’s everyone’s schedule. You know, it’s not like we’re the only ones that play FCS. That’s kind of part of college football and at the FBS level, you play FCS opponents. I think it’s good for football.”

Rivalries with Boise State, Pac-12 teams

Last week, a Reno, Nevada-based media outlet reported on a game between BYU and the Nevada Wolf Pack scheduled to be played in the 2024 season. That contest, according to Holmoe, was already scheduled months ago; it just wasn’t announced publicly by BYU. As a result, BYU won’t be adding any non-conference games in the coming years as they move into the Big 12. Including games against familiar foes like Boise State and western-based programs from the Pac-12 Conference.

“We have some other teams that we’ve had rivalries with and have played more than others,” Holmoe said. “You can look at other schools like Boise State, the Pac-12. We’ve had some really good rivalries and we have scheduled games. Those are decisions that still need to be made as to when we can get back and how we will get back. Will it be a consistent every year rivalry when we’re playing a rivalry game every year? I’d say the answer would be no.”

Number of Big 12 Conference Games & Divisions

When the Big 12 Conference officially decides the number of conference games they play, eight or nine, that will go a long way towards determining the structure of non-conference schedules. When asked by KSL Sports what his preference would be for the number of conference games played, Holmoe deferred to his head football coach Kalani Sitake, who wasn’t present at Holmoe’s media roundtable.

“He’s the coach of the football team. And I really think it comes down to that. We are studying, when you’re talking about that, if you want more games for the conference, that can have an effect on the revenue of your TV budget. Or do you want more non-conference games, which does allow you to have rivalry games and other revenue streams?”

The Big 12 is reportedly moving towards two seven-team divisions beginning in 2023. Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby told KSL Sports back in October that the league was moving towards divisions in football and basketball. Holmoe didn’t want to jump into the speculation of how he wants the divisions to shake out. But, he said, “there are reasons that the Big 12 will have for the way they do it. So I want to get into those conversations first before I really comment on that.”

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

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