PROVO — BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe called scheduling Northern Iowa an emergency stopgap measure to replace Nevada for the opener in the 2008 Cougar football schedule — not a route he'll take in future years.
Holmoe met informally with a group of beat reporters on Thursday at Legends Grill on BYU's campus to discuss scheduling issues.
Scheduling teams in the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA), like Northern Iowa in 2008 and Eastern Washington in 2007 were transitional situations BYU hopes to avoid in the future, said Holmoe.
Northern Iowa's final rankings by Sagarin (USA Today) were better than four MWC teams and six WAC programs. Holmoe estimated 41 of 64 BCS schools scheduled teams like Northern Iowa in 2007, including Michigan in the famed Appalachian State date.
"Bronco Mendenhall believes in playing a regional schedule, like we have next year with UCLA and Washington. He doesn't like going clear across the country to play a game — the Army game (2011 at West Point, N.Y.) is an exception because of tradition set by LaVell Edwards to play service academies."
The 2008 schedule that features Northern Iowa, Utah State, Washington and UCLA, is representative of a balanced schedule, something BYU will set its sights on in coming years (minus the Division I-AA team), said Holmoe.
"Bronco Mendenhall will play anybody in the country," said Holmoe. "But we have a responsibility to move this program forward. "It is irresponsible to overschedule."
To explain this, Holmoe said he would not load up the Cougars schedule like some tried to do in the past.
If BYU played LSU, it would not also schedule Ohio State and Michigan in the same year. But scheduling two BCS teams as part of the non-conference schedule would be prudent, said the athletic director.
The four-year pact with Boise State that begins in 2012 is something Holmoe worked on for some time. He acknowledged his friend, the athletic director at Boise State, kept prodding him, asking him if BYU was afraid to schedule the
Broncos. "We got it done and we look forward to the series. It's unusual to get four straight years without an interruption."
Other notes from the meeting:
• When Nevada backed out of its deal to open in Provo Aug. 30, 2008, Holmoe received five phone calls from Football Championship Subdivision schools wanting to replace the Wolf Pack. But Holmoe worked through deputy MWC commissioner Bret Gilliland to search for a Division I opponent. Nevada and the WAC promised to help also, but failed. Gilliland plugged the date into a matrix and immediately contacted his counterparts in all Division I conferences. There were no Division I openings. "We may have switched the game to another date or given up a home game, but that would not be financially feasible."
• Holmoe reaffirmed BYU has a very specific agenda and timetable to get its product to as many TV sets as possible, regardless of the success of the MWC's struggles in negotiations to get coverage on DishNetwork and DirecTV. "I won't discuss it publicly, but we do have an agenda. We do have a timeline."
• The Las Vegas Bowl and BYU have been good partners for one another through three consecutive appearances, but both parties recognize it could be improved. One adjustment, when bowl contracts are redone in three years, is to make the Las Vegas Bowl a site for two league champions. Bronco Mendenhall recently pushed a "play-in game" for non-BCS conferences to get into a BCS game. He made the push at the national coaching convention earlier this month.
• Holmoe understands frustrations over the rematch with UCLA in Las Vegas, but all MWC bowls have regional ties; thus rematches are a possibility. There is no move to bump or move around the UCLA-BYU game this fall. "Having grown up in the Pac-10, coached in the Pac-10, playing the fourth- or fifth-place team in the Pac-10 is always going to be a great match-up, it just is."
• Holmoe said scheduling of Eastern Washington "was on me" because he got caught as an inexperienced athletic director, waiting on the promise of some Division teams who ended up "playing him" until they filled in their own schedules and he was left to scramble at the last minute. "That won't happen again."
• There is a feeling around the league BYU believes it is too big for the MWC. Holmoe said, "there are some schools that don't like us, but they respect us. BYU's game plan is to take care of business; that means winning conference championships. "There was a time BYU looked beyond where they should have. I don't want to say, 'look, we've arrived' when you do win and talk about you are too good for this league. That's bad and I'll shut it (talk like that) down."