Mark Pope Explains Why BYU Revived Old Rivalry With Wyoming

Dec 29, 2023, 10:28 AM

BYU Basketball, Mark Pope, Wyoming Series...

BYU basketball head coach Mark Pope on why his program rekindled the series with Wyoming. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

(Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

PROVO, Utah – You have to go back 13 years to find the last time that BYU basketball faced Wyoming. That’s when the two programs were conference rivals in the Mountain West Conference.

A long, storied history exists between BYU (11-1) and Wyoming (7-5). Aside from in-state rivals Utah and Utah State, Wyoming is next in line for most games played against BYU with 174 meetings.

Saturday afternoon inside the Marriott Center rekindles the series and will stage the first hardwood meeting as non-conference foes. But it won’t be the only meeting between these two programs in hoops.

BYU basketball will make a return visit to Laramie in the 2024-25 season

BYU plans to make a return visit to Laramie next year in the “Double A” Arena Auditorium for the 2024-25 season.

Fifth-year head coach Mark Pope explained the decision for his staff to line up a home-and-home with the Pokes.

“It was a little bit later in the summer. I like the game because I think they’re good,” said Pope. “I think Coach (Jeff Linder) is unbelievable, and I think he does an incredible job. His run at Northern Colorado was exceptional. So I liked the game that way.”

If this year has shown us anything with non-conference scheduling for BYU as a Big 12 program, there will be only one true road game in the slate. That’s a standard operating procedure for teams in the Power Six.

The visit to Wyoming could be the lone road game on BYU’s non-conference schedule next year. It will be a rare opportunity for Wyoming to host a Power Six team in the “Double A.”

When BYU travels to Laramie in 2024, it will be Wyoming’s first home game against a Power Six team since 2019 versus Oregon State.

“I like that it’s a terrible place to go on the road. I mean, nobody wants to go there ever in the history of the world wants to go play at Wyoming. And I like that for our guys,” Pope said. “I think it’s a terrific challenge.”

Somewhere up above, legendary BYU football head coach LaVell Edwards, who said he’d rather lose and live in Provo than win and live in Laramie, is nodding his head to Mark Pope’s commentary on trips to Eastern Wyoming.

“It’s got some history and I think it’s fun for our fans,” said Pope. “So I think it’s going to be really good for us.”

Does the history play a role for BYU basketball in Saturday’s matchup?

That history might remain a thing for fans who lived those Big Monday night battles in the WAC and Mountain West Conference. For Pope’s BYU squad that looks to close out non-conference play with a 12-1 record before its inaugural Big 12 season, it’s the next game in front of them.

“It’s not in their soul. You hear stories, but you haven’t really lived through them. So it doesn’t mean as much. And I suspect for the Wyoming players, it’s somewhat similar. I don’t know if there are guys on that team who have a deep-seated understanding of the history of this rivalry,” Pope said. “But I do think it’s a great game because they’re a great team. I think they’re really good and I think they’re really explosive. I think they bring a lot to the table. It’s going to be a terrific game.”

No. 14 BYU vs. Wyoming

Saturday, December 30, 2023

Tip-off: 4 p.m.

TV: Big 12 Now on ESPN+

Radio: KSL NewsRadio (102.7 FM, 1160 AM – Coverage begins at Noon with Cougar Sports Saturday)

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow Mitch’s coverage of BYU in the Big 12 Conference on X and Threads: @Mitch_Harper.

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Mark Pope Explains Why BYU Revived Old Rivalry With Wyoming