With another Power Five team — Missouri — dropping off 2020 schedule, what are BYU’s options?
The latest coronavirus pandemic scheduling casualty came Thursday, when the SEC announced a 10-game, conference-only schedule for 2020
PROVO — Now, BYU’s 2020 football schedule is down to six games — and zero Power Five opponents.
The latest coronavirus pandemic scheduling casualty came Thursday, when the Southeastern Conference announced a 10-game, conference-only schedule for 2020 — which means the Cougars’ home game against Missouri on Oct. 10 (as part of a series announced way back in 2014) has dropped off the slate.
In early July, a similar decision by the Big Ten and Pac-12 to play conference-only schedules cost BYU a combined five games on its 2020 football schedule.
While the Cougars won’t play Missouri this season, a potential, much ballyhooed season-opener against the SEC’s Alabama won’t happen, either.
So BYU has only six opponents remaining on its 2020 schedule: Utah State (Oct. 2), Houston (Oct. 16), at Northern Illinois (Oct. 24), at Boise State (Nov. 6), San Diego State (Nov. 14) and North Alabama (Nov. 21).
For now, BYU won’t be playing any Power Five opponents in 2020. That could change if the Cougars are able to schedule games with the Big 12 and/or the Atlantic Coast Conference.
It’s a tough time to be an independent program, although BYU’s relationship with ESPN could be more valuable than ever.
For decades, the Cougars have flirted with the possibility of joining the Big 12. Could now be the time when it happens, even if for only one season?
The Big 12, which has only 10 members, is planning on playing a full schedule of 12 games. The Big 12 has lost marquee games against the SEC, such as Texas-Louisiana State and Oklahoma-Tennessee. The league announced that its virtual media day, planned for Monday, has been canceled.
The most prominent independent, Notre Dame, which already had six ACC games on its 2020 schedule as part of its scheduling arrangement with the league, will play a full ACC schedule for this season.
The ACC also announced Wednesday it will stage an 11-game season, with 10 conference games and one nonleague contest. According to the league, each nonconference foe “must be played in the home state of the ACC institution, and all nonconference opponents must meet the medical requirements as agreed upon by the ACC.”
The SEC will play a 10-game, conference-only schedule, with the season kicking off on Sept. 26. The championship game is set for Dec. 19.
So where does that leave the Cougars in terms of their 2020 schedule? There’s plenty of speculation out there about BYU’s contingency plans.
As the Deseret News has reported since last spring, BYU could schedule games against fellow independents — Liberty, UMass, New Mexico State, UConn and Army.
Maybe the Cougars can schedule games against ACC opponents? Or perhaps the Cougars can broker a deal with the Mountain West Conference and/or American Athletic Conference? Or schedule games against FCS opponents?
Of course, there’s the possibility that due to the pandemic, there will be no college football this fall. Could fall sports be pushed to the spring?
A couple weeks ago, AL.com first reported that Alabama and BYU could meet in Week 1. The two programs have met only once, 1998, with the Crimson Tide earning a 38-31 victory in Tuscaloosa.
But dreams of that high-profile matchup for the Cougars have been dashed.
“There have been a lot of communications, a lot of conversations with people,” AD Tom Holmoe said on BYUtv’s “BYU Sports Nation” show on July 20 when asked about a possible game against Alabama. “You gotta look at it this way: It might take me a year, a year and a half, to put together a schedule, normally. And when those two conferences, the Big Ten and the Pac-12, announced they were going conference games only, it opened up games. … Some (possible games) have been reported from their side. And I think that (the reports and rumors) will continue today and tomorrow and until this goes to the point where we are playing football.”
BYU saw five games disappear off its schedule earlier this month over a 24-hour span — at Utah (Sept. 3), Michigan State (Sept. 12), Arizona State (Sept. 19), at Minnesota (Sept. 26) and at Stanford (Nov. 28).
A schedule featuring other independents is a possibility, Holmoe acknowledged on July 20.
“Yes, that could occur, because being an independent, if every conference went conference only, and didn’t leave a plus-one or plus-two (scenario), then there wouldn’t be any other games available, and we would work out some type of an arrangement with other independent teams, or, maybe other schools that for some reason might have a game available,” Holmoe said.
Since going independent in 2011, BYU has played numerous Power Five programs — Ole Miss, Texas, Utah, Oregon State, Washington State, Notre Dame, Georgia Tech, Virginia, Wisconsin, Washington, California, Nebraska, UCLA, Michigan, Missouri, Arizona, Michigan State, Mississippi State, Louisiana State, Tennessee and USC.
The chance to play against Power Five opponents is one reason why BYU players sign with the Cougars. This latest scheduling blow is tough for players like Matt Bushman and Khyiris Tonga, who returned for their senior seniors instead of declaring for the NFL draft.
Meanwhile, BYU was granted a waiver by the NCAA to begin participating in required athletically related activities with coaches this week.
But will the Cougars be able to fill out a schedule? Or will there be a college football season at all?