BYU football planning priorities in the big 12 era come into the picture

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

Which non-conference games remain? How many conference games are played in the Big 12? There are still many questions to be answered, but the pieces are starting to come together.

BYU Athletic Director Tom Holmoe provided some insight into the future of football schedules when the Cougars compete in 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 midst 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 very good tradition of playing in the state schools. But at least the first part of our schedule we won’t be able to do in some areas. We’re still trying to figure that out early.”

BYU and Utah won’t play again until 2024. However, Utah State is on each of the BYU schedules from 2023 to 2026.

“I’ll take eight or nine teams and remove them from the schedules from 2023. And we’re probably fully scheduled for ’26, ’27. So for those years we’re trying to take teams out, not add teams. So, we would Want to play Utah, Utah State? Yes, I’ll comment on that because they’re in the state.”

There are two enemies in the state on BYU’s schedule for 2023, the first year in the Big 12. Utah State and the new WAC member Southern Utah. The T-Birds are members of the Football Championship subdivision. Holmoe was not specifically asked about FCS games. But it’s hard to imagine a scenario where cash games against FCS enemies don’t show up on the schedule when BYU is in the Big 12.

In November, BYU head coach Kalani Sitake was asked by KSL Sports whether games against FCS teams in the Big 12 era would continue. Sitake replied, “I think that’s everyone’s schedule. You know, it’s not like we’re the only ones playing 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.”

Rivalry with Boise State, Pac-12 teams

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

“We have some other teams that we’ve had rivalries with and played with more than others,” said Holmoe. “You can look at other schools like Boise State, the Pac-12. We’ve had really good rivalries and we’ve planned games. Those are decisions that have yet to be made about when we can come back and how we will come back. Will it be a constant rivalry if we play 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 how many conference games to play, eight or nine, that will go a long way in 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 put it to his head football coach Kalani Sitake, who was not present at Holmoe’s media roundtable.

“He’s the coach of the football team. And I really think that’s what it comes down to. We’re studying, if you’re talking about that, if you want more games for the conference, it could affect your revenue TV budget, or do you want more non-conference games, which will give you rivalry games and other revenue streams?”

The Big 12 is reportedly on track for two divisions of seven teams starting in 2023. Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby told KSL Sports in October that the league was moving into divisions in football and basketball. Holmoe declined to comment on how he wants the divisions to split up. But, he said, “there are reasons the Big 12 will have for the way they do it. So I want to get into those conversations 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 (Saturdays from 12 noon – 3 p.m.) on KSL Nieuwsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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