It’s a sports psychologist’s nightmare. After spending months, both in individual and group sessions, driving home the point that self-worth starts from within, and that it doesn’t matter what other people think, comes the Big 12 media days, where the focus is on what the other people think.

The media have already spoken with the preseason poll that ranks BYU 11th among the 14 teams. This week we will hear what the Big 12 coaches and players think as they are asked a bevy of questions.

What does BYU bring to the Big 12? What do you like about them? How do you think Kedon Slovis will do in the conference? Do you think BYU will surprise some teams? How do you feel about its brand and national fanbase? Are you looking forward to playing night games in Provo? And, exclusively for Texas — did you know your coach is a former BYU quarterback and do you remember Taysom Hill?

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The two days of meetings will include a lot of politically correct responses and niceties, but there will also be a revealed glimpse of just how much or how little the other teams in the league know about the Cougars — or even care.

It’s been a while since BYU attended a conference media day and even longer when the Cougars weren’t considered a preseason contender. The soon-to-be departing Longhorns and Sooners will headline the week and dominate the rhetoric while the Cougars wait for their turn.

But even as BYU looks up from down below, the school has a history and brings several subplots to AT&T Stadium in Irving, Texas. For example, Oklahoma and Texas are a combined 1-6 against the Cougars, including 1-4 outside of Provo. BYU’s 14-13 win in 2009 against No. 3 Oklahoma happened on the very field that is hosting the meetings.  

Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian played for LaVell Edwards (1995-96) and led the No. 5 Cougars to a 14-1 record and a New Year’s Day victory against the Big 12’s Kansas State in the Cotton Bowl.

In matchups against the newcomers — Houston, Cincinnati and UCF — the Cougars are a combined 7-1 (4-1 outside of Provo). In the most recent games during the 2020 COVID-19 season, BYU won at Houston 43-26 and routed the UCF Knights 49-23 in Florida at the Boca Raton Bowl.

The Cougars are a program stuffed in street cred — a national championship, a Heisman Trophy, a Doak Walker Award, two Outland Trophy winners, a Maxwell Award, five Davey O’Brien Awards, seven Sammy Baugh trophies, 76 All-Americans, and seven inductees in the College Football Hall of Fame.

Even as legendary headliners like Sheide, Nielsen, Wilson, McMahon, Young, Bosco, Detmer, Sarkisian, Beck and (Max) Hall put BYU on the map, today’s Cougars have graduated from the old school. Kalani Sitake’s program speaks the language of now — loud and clear.

Never at one time has BYU had as many impact players in the NFL as the ones who will report to training camp in two weeks — including Fred Warner, Taysom Hill, Jamaal Williams, Tyler Allgeier, Zach Wilson, Jaren Hall, Ty’Son Williams, Brady Christensen, Blake Freeland, Puka Nacua and Dax Milne.

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For the Cougars, this week is like attending a new-member orientation meeting at a country club. After 12 long years as an independent, and more than eight decades before that, they are finally inside the gates with earned access to the amenities. BYU has visited as a guest on occasion, but never like this.  

It might take a while to get comfortable with the surroundings, but once the Cougars figure it out and get up to speed with the other members, this will become BYU’s new home of endless possibilities — perhaps sooner than later.

Once the Longhorns and Sooners leave for the SEC in 2024, the Cougars will lay claim to the biggest stadium and largest national following in the Big 12 — the kinds of pillars that are uncanny for any new kid on the block, and ones that anyone would like to build on.

Self and group therapy has been going on for years inside the Student Athletic Building. Each player, every position group, and the entire team has been indoctrinated into believing that BYU belongs at this level of football.

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That’s what makes this week so interesting.

The first wave of outside opinion hit with the Big 12 media poll where the Cougars were projected fourth from the bottom. A second wave arrives Wednesday and Thursday when BYU’s opponents chime in — something the Cougars haven’t heard since their last media day in the Mountain West Conference in 2010.

Good, bad or indifferent, whatever comes out of Texas this week will be muted by BYU’s sports psychologists — headed by Dr. Sitake (he’s not a real doctor, but he has stayed at a Holiday Inn Express). The coach will remind his boys that the only thing that matters when the Cougars take the field in September is how they feel about themselves.

BYU head coach Kalani Sitake looks on before the start of game against Boise State in Provo, Utah, in this Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021. BYU coach Kalani Sitake said he has known Baylor coach Dave Aranda for a long time, and that they have shared a lot of ideas and philosophies about coaching. | Rick Bowmer, Associated Press

Dave McCann is a contributor to the Deseret News and is the studio host for “BYU Sports Nation Game Day,” “The Post Game Show,” “After Further Review,” and play-by-play announcer for BYUtv. He is also co-host of “Y’s Guys” at  

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