Because BYU’s football team suffered through a disappointing 5-7 season last year, and because BYU’s basketball team overachieved in 2023-24 and then got an infusion of more hope with the hiring of Kevin Young to replace Mark Pope, and because there’s not a lot going on in the local sports world, there’s been a lot of talk out there recently that basketball has overtaken football as the Cougars’ marquee sports program.

Is that myth or reality?

Certainly, basketball is hot at the moment. It has been stealing all the headlines and appears to have a brighter future.

Basketball seems better positioned to make more noise nationally in the next few years than football, which had a much harder time in its first season in the Big 12 than men’s basketball did.

Consider this question: What will happen first, BYU football making the expanded 12-team college football playoff, or BYU basketball making the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament?

The take here is that basketball currently has the higher ceiling, what with the types of players Young has already brought in, and could be bringing in, before preseason training camp begins in October.

As has been thoroughly reported by the Deseret News and other outlets, BYU’s football team very well could be picked to finish 15th or 16th in the 16-team Big 12 this fall. Voting on that comes out next month, just before the Big 12 football media days in Las Vegas July 9-10.

Really, one way pundits express the way the tide seems to be shifting is by asking whether BYU is a basketball school now, or “still” a football school.

No question, football has been king in Provo in the past, aside from perhaps the Jimmer years — 2009-11 — when both sports were more relevant nationally than they are now.

In my opinion, it’s silly to wonder whether BYU is a football school or a basketball school, since that’s like comparing apples to oranges.

In reality, BYU is neither, from this perspective: Men’s and women’s volleyball, cross-country and track and field and women’s soccer have all out-performed the marquee sports in recent years.

No question, though, these are halcyon days for the BYU basketball program — at least off the court.

On the court, the Cougars under new coach Kevin Young have yet to win a game, but the hype for a season still more than four months away has hit record levels.

The take here is that people need to pump the brakes on the hoopla a little bit.

Remember, this is a program that hasn’t won an NCAA Tournament game since 2012, a 78-72 conquest of Iona in a First Four game in Dayton, Ohio.

The Cougars have lost their last five tournament games, most recently 71-67 to a Duquesne team of which they had no business losing.

Granted, the cancellation of the Big Dance in 2020 possibly cost the Cougars a decent run. At that time, Yoeli Childs, Alex Marcello, Jake Toolson, Zac Seljaas, TJ Haws and company had a solid squad under Pope.

As far as Young taking over, there’s no question that the excitement level has been heightened not just one notch, but several.

“Excitement is kinda the word that jumps to mind,” BYU guard Dallin Hall said last week as the team began summer workouts and practices. “We get a whole offseason to figure things out. There is a little bit of uncertainty, I would say, just on how we all fit together. We are still learning what (Young) likes, and doesn’t like.”

This has to be the most anticipated BYU basketball season in recent memory.

Remember, however, that it is easier to get better quickly in basketball than football, simply because basketball requires fewer outstanding players. One or two guys can make a big difference on the hardwoods.

On the gridiron, not so much — unless it is a quarterback with the skills of a Zach Wilson, Taysom Hill or Max Hall. Those are guys who were able to make their teammates better, and in their best seasons the Cougars rolled.

If the Cougars can’t find a top-notch quarterback in 2024, football will slip even more. Jake Retzlaff and Gerry Bohanon are at the top of the depth chart, but I’m hearing McCae Hillstead, the transfer from Utah State, is already impressing teammates and coaches.


Preseason training camp, which begins in late July, is going to be fun.

Having spoken twice to head coach Kalani Sitake last week, I’ve noticed a calm, quiet resolve from the coach entering his ninth season at the helm. Sitake said the coaching staff and Cougars welcome the low expectations from outsiders, and are eager to prove them wrong.

“We were part of a losing streak last season (five games) that we weren’t really happy about. And although we were competitive in a lot of the games, especially the last two, we know we can play better,” Sitake said. “There is not a lot of room for error right now, but I like the approach that they have had since the end of the season, getting into offseason conditioning hard.

“Everything that has happened from January to now, I am really happy about. I feel like that experience is giving them that sense of urgency to get out there and go, and now they know what to expect,” he continued. “It will be a lot different going into the second year for our guys than going into the first year. That is just part of life.”

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