When the Big 12 Conference invited Utah, Arizona, Colorado and Arizona State to join them beginning next year, it created a scheduling challenge for BYU. The Cougars were already slated to face Utah in Salt Lake City on Sept. 7, 2024.

With the Utes becoming a conference foe, the Sept. 7 date is now open and filling it on such short notice won’t be easy.

“There are very few games that are even available when you are talking 13 months out,” BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe told the “Y’s Guys” podcast. “That one is going to be tricky because there are literally only four or five games that realistically could even be played.”

Prior to Utah and Arizona joining the Big 12, BYU had six future games scheduled against the Utes and a home-and-home series with the Wildcats. All eight dates are now open and need filling.

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Holmoe just completed a 12-year run of formulating BYU’s independent schedule, which meant he had to fine a dozen games each season. Through it all, his ace in the hole was former ESPN scheduling guru Dave Brown. Following the recent Big 12 expansion, Holmoe picked up his phone.

“The plan is, call Dave Brown,” Holmoe said. “He was my wing man for 12 years. We’ve talked three times already this week.”

Brown helped orchestrate some of BYU’s biggest games, including Texas, USC, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Michigan State and Notre Dame. Finding a marquee opponent in time for next season will be a challenge.

With an occasional exception, college football schedules are done years in advance and as a newcomer to a Power Five conference, the Cougars want to be cautious.

“Our schedule this year was supposed to open against (No. 11) Tennessee at home. The second game was (No. 6) USC in Los Angeles and then at Arkansas,” Holmoe said. “If we hadn’t moved those games, that’s who we would be facing.”

BYU and USC canceled their series and Tennessee bought its way out of coming to Provo. In their place, the Cougars scheduled Sam Houston and Southern Utah ahead of 10 straight Power Five opponents beginning Sept. 16 at Arkansas and including No. 11 Texas, No. 16 Kansas State, No. 17 TCU and No. 20 Oklahoma.

“We’ll have to take care of the next two years (to replace Utah). We need to find someone to get in there,” Holmoe said. “Down the road, we will be able to find some unique games.”

Holmoe has worked on short notice before. He replaced the Tennessee game with Sam Houston on less than a year’s notice. An obvious target would be the four Pac-12 teams who were left out of the recent wave of conference expansion — Stanford, Cal, Washington State or Oregon State. 

“Those are possibilities,” Holmoe said. “But like I said, as we learned during those scheduling years of independence, what we think works out great for us is not always magical for them.”