Which three, or four, nonconference opponents will remain on Big 12-bound Cougars’ 2023 schedule?
It appears that BYU will keep Tennessee, Arkansas on their 2023 schedule, but instate games against SUU and USU might be in jeopardy
BYU’s 2022 football schedule is set, and has been since late last September when it was finalized with the announcement that the Cougars will take on Notre Dame at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas on Oct. 8 as part of the Irish’s Shamrock Series.
What about in 2023, when the Cougars enter the Big 12 Conference?
Obviously, the independent’s schedule that athletic director Tom Holmoe painstakingly crafted the past dozen or so years will have to be blown up. Holmoe said last month that he has already started unwinding the 2023 slate.
“I’m an advocate for nine conference games (in football). I think our conference quality is good enough that that is a valuable thing for us.” — Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby
“We are taking eight or nine teams, and removing them from schedules, beginning in ’23,” Holmoe said, adding that BYU was mostly “scheduled out” to 2026 or 2027 before receiving the invitation to join the Power Five league in early September 2021.
Last Friday, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said on BYUtv’s “BYU Sports Nation” show that the 2023 Big 12 football schedule will probably be released in the middle of the 2022 season.
“We usually try and announce our football schedule in October,” he said.
Bowlsby acknowledged that he prefers a nine-game conference schedule — which would allow BYU to keep only three games — but noted nothing was decided in that regard when Big 12 leaders met last month in Las Vegas.
“I’m an advocate for nine conference games (in football),” Bowlsby said. “I think our conference quality is good enough that that is a valuable thing for us.”
The Big 12’s commissioner since 2012, Bowlsby spoke as if the departure of Texas and Oklahoma for the Southeastern Conference is not imminent, and quite likely won’t happen before BYU, Central Florida, Houston and Cincinnati push the league to 14 schools.
“We’re going to be at 14 for a couple of years, and so playing a full round-robin (schedule) is not in the cards,” he said. “… One of the things that make great leagues is great rivalries.”
Holmoe said BYU is “studying” the eight or nine conference games issue.
“We are now in a conference, and we are one of a number of members that will make that determination based on the total majority of the people in that conference, what they want to do,” Holmoe cautioned.
There is also the question of divisions. Bowlsby told BYUtv that he “wouldn’t be surprised” if the Big 12 has divisions for football beginning in 2023. Dennis Dodd of CBSsports.com reported in January that the Big 12 is “engaged in plans to split into two seven-team divisions in football beginning in 2023 to temporarily restructure as a 14-team league as the realignment process unfolds.”
If that’s the case, which divisions include which teams still has to be hammered out, and it can’t be assumed that they will be divided along geographical lines in an East-West fashion, several outlets have reported.
“Those things are still taking shape and I honestly don’t have any preconceived notions that those are (anywhere near) close to being final,” Bowlsby said.
On Jan. 27, Holmoe said he didn’t feel comfortable weighing in on the Big 12 football divisions discussion quite yet. He said he’s received tons of “suggestions and emails” from people and has had informal discussions with fellow athletic directors about it.
“Right now it would just be pure speculation and I really wouldn’t want to do that,” Holmoe said. “There are reasons that the Big 12 will have for the way they do it, and I want to get into those conversations with them first before I comment on that.”
BYU has already taken steps to trim its 2023 schedule.
Boise State athletic director Jeramiah Dickey said in an impromptu Q&A on Twitter Jan. 25 that the Broncos’ series with BYU — scheduled to be played through 2034 — will end after the Nov. 5 game this fall.
The Fresno Bee reported on Feb. 10 that a BYU-Fresno State series (2023 in Fresno, 2027 in Provo) has been canceled, with BYU invoking a clause in the contract that allows either school to cancel “if they decide to join a conference, whether currently existing or newly created, that is different from its current conference or independent affiliation.”
The newspaper reported that FSU was already contacting teams expecting to fall off BYU’s future schedules, particularly to find a home opponent for that now-open Oct. 7, 2023, date.
Also last week, wholehogsports.com, which reports on Arkansas Razorbacks football in conjunction with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, reported that the BYU-at-Arkansas game that was scheduled to be played on Sept. 23, 2023, will now be moved up a week and be played on Sept. 16.
BYU was scheduled to play at Utah State on Sept. 16, so that game will either be moved or canceled.
BYU is still scheduled to host Tennessee in its 2023 opener. In December, FBSchedules.com reported that the Sept. 9 game against Virginia has been canceled.
BYU’s game vs. South Florida originally set for Oct. 28, 2023, has been moved Oct. 17, 2026.
Games in 2023 that still remain on BYU’s schedule (or haven’t been reported publicly to be canceled) include Sept. 29 vs. Rice, Nov. 4 vs. UNLV, Nov. 18 vs. Southern Utah and Nov. 25 at USC.
A source close to USC’s program told the Deseret News that it is “highly unlikely” that the Nov. 25 game vs. USC will be played. As an independent, BYU has filled Pac-12 schedule openings late in the season for several years.
Last November’s 35-31 win over USC is an example of that, as is this year’s Nov. 26 game at Stanford.
Holmoe said he doesn’t know yet if the Big 12 will allow that kind of unofficial scheduling agreement with the Pac-12 to continue.
“I have communicated with Bob (Bowlsby) about it, and it is one of the things that will go into the determination of how we do those schedules,” Holmoe said. “Because there are times when we will slip those teams in. It has been a great benefit as an independent. It is not as essential, being a member of a conference.”