By Jacob Kendall
Yesterday the University of Utah announced a home and home series with Fresno State for 2014-2015. This announcement finalized the Utes non-conference schedules through 2015. This new series may also be the nail in the coffin of the Holy War. Because this announcement means that the hiatus is really happening. The BYU vs Utah rivalry has already been changed by being played in September. It is no longer the climax of the season as the final game and has a different feeling to it. But it has been played and it could still be played annually if both schools wanted to. There has not been a break in playing since World War II. Momentum has shifted back and forth over the years but the game has always meant a lot to the state of Utah, the schools and the fan bases. But now unfortunately one school has made the decision to take a break from it.
Not only is the future of BYU playing Utah in question, but the future of BYU playing any Pac 12 school is in question. BYU also has a long tradition of playing schools from the Pac 10 and the Pac 12. Under coach Bronco Mendenhall BYU has fared well vs the Pac.
Oregon St.: 2-1
Wash St.: 1-0
The trend of BYU playing Utah and other Pac 12 schools in football is going away. Utah is the only Pac 12 football game on the 2013 schedule. Arizona State recently cancelled a scheduled series with BYU and Washington State has elected to move a 2013 game to 2019. That makes 3 scheduled games vs the Pac 12 over 7 years from 2013-2019.
Commissioner Larry Scott has brought the Pac 12 up significantly in tv revenue. But he has also put heavy restrictions on how they can schedule. Is it a worthwhile trade? The answer to this has to be yes.
Pac 12 teams have been told that they can only schedule non-conference games in August or September. And preferably none past the 3rd week of September. The exception to this is Notre Dame. USC and Stanford are allowed an exception to play Notre Dame. Having one of these games on NBC every year is win for the conference. BYU would love to continue to play the Utes and preferably on the traditional rivalry weekend after Thanksgiving. Utah is unlikely to ever push for this especially since they are the new kid on the block.
9 Game Conference Schedule
The Pac 12 is sticking to their guns on the 9 game schedule. The extra conference game makes 12 less games available for BYU to schedule. USC and Stanford play Notre dame each year and Colorado plays Colorado State each year. So only 9 teams have available games each year. Only having 3 games makes the Pac 12 teams less likely to schedule a challenging game. Especially vs a school and coach that have a winning record vs their conference. Also when you play 9 conference games you have 5 road games every other year. Most teams in the conference prefer to play 7 home and 5 road games each year. This makes it harder and less likely for a home and home vs BYU when you have so many parameters.
Defunct B1G Schedule
The Pac 12 announced a scheduling pact with the B1G. After the announcement the schools created future schedules with this in mind. Some games and series were scheduled in already. These include Utah vs Michigan and Wisconsin vs Oregon State. I am not sure the reasons why this fell through, but it is likely because the conference would be dictating 10 of 12 games per year. And their unwillingness to move back to an 8 game conference schedule to make room for the B1G series.
So knowing the problems what are the potential fixes?
Learn from the Best
BYU is often criticized when a Notre Dame comparison comes up. It is true that BYU is not Notre Dame and they never will be. They cannot touch the tradition, branding, popularity and clout that Notre Dame has. But BYU should look to Notre Dame as a model of how to make independence work. They have done so and will continue to do this.
Similarly the Pac 12 should look at the SEC as a model of success. The SEC is the most successful football conference. Both on the field and in revenue. And that does not seem to be changing. The SEC and the Pac 12 have taken almost polar opposite approaches when it comes to football scheduling. The SEC allows their schools to schedule their non-conference games whenever they want. And then they create their conference schedule to fill in the gaps. They allow Florida, Georgia and South Carolina to schedule their rivalry games on rivalry week. Even though they are non conference games. SEC schools all seem to break up their conference schedule with out of conference games in October and November. It is very common for Alabama and Florida to play an FCS team or a Sun Belt team in their 2nd to last game. This contrasts the Pac 12’s rigid model, and as evidence the Pac 12 has only produced one undefeated team since they moved to 9 conference games. And zero since they added a championship game. By making their conference teams play 9 or 10 conference games in a row they are severely limiting their chances for Championship game appearances. Time will tell if a 1 loss Pac 12 team gets into the playoffs consistently.
BYU is not likely to play the Utes regularly or the Pac 12 in general until Larry Scott and the league wise up to what will help them really become the conference of champions.