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Why BYU wouldn’t take the Washington Huskies’ bait

The weekend controversy over BYU refusing to play at Washington under the Pac-12’s complex conditions was never about the game; it was a dog and pony show

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Washington Huskies quarterback Jacob Eason throws against BYU in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

BYU has enjoyed a great relationship with the Pac-12 as a scheduling partner since going independent, but the power play over the weekend to invite BYU to play Washington in Seattle was nothing more than a dog and pony show.

When the move got Bruce Feldman (Fox Sports) to proclaim BYU had declined the game Sunday, mission accomplished.

The whole idea was dumb from the start. It was a public relations ploy and BYU didn’t bite.

In reality, the Pac-12 is looking to put Utah against Washington. It was just fun to nick No. 8 BYU in the process by offering a road game with no payout, being forced to swallow Pac-12 health protocols and maybe cancel the game on Thursday.

The Pac-12, in a disastrous season where its August and September decisions cheated its athletes of opportunities to compete, was looking for a way to push No. 9 Oregon up the ladder.

There was no way Kalani Sitake was going to put his players in that position regardless of the highly publicized headband worn by his quarterback, proclaiming any team, anywhere, anytime.

There’s a feeling in BYU’s camp that Zach Wilson’s forehead poster is right on. The competitive juices start kicking in and there’s a “heck yes, let’s go, bring it on” response.

Then reality hits.

For business purposes, a hastily arranged BYU at Washington game, discussed on the same weekend that athletic director Tom Holmoe announced a $20 million shortfall and asked supporters for donations, was a sham. For BYU to then have no shared TV money only added insult to injury.

BYU had already committed to play Utah and Arizona State in August when the Pac-12 canceled out, and with it, money promised for the budget.

Ever since COVID-19 blew up a great schedule, Holmoe has scrambled to get BYU a season. He’s had plenty of takers and he’s run into plenty of athletic directors who’ve declined to play the Cougars as they climbed in the polls and Wilson proved unstoppable. Those turndowns are not public knowledge.

And BYU has had games scheduled that just didn’t seem right and were not contractually consummated. There are other potential games that could be added to the docket at any minute. Those games would bring revenue. A last-gasp game at Washington, even if canceled, could put those potential games in jeopardy. 

If Holmoe wanted to, he could give BYU a 12-game schedule right now, today.

But it has to be right.

In a tweet posted Monday morning, Holmoe stated:  

“We remain open to exploring options to add football games, and have throughout the season. In that exploration process there are a variety of factors that need to be addressed, including location, prep time for the game, the chances of that game being played, the testing protocols that are in place and what the game will do for our resume. 

“At this point of the season having played nine games and been nationally ranked, we are involved in discussions for possible matchups with other teams on common open dates, for the benefit of both teams.”

If you read between the lines, Holmoe is dismissing the Pac-12 Washington ploy with what I’ll call insane conditions. He is also stating that he’s on target to add games that are beneficial — as in bringing in some money for both teams — and not having to do the splits upside-down from a league with headquarters in California that just put a curfew of 10 p.m. on its citizens.

What would a No. 7 Cincy vs. No. 8 BYU on ESPN primetime matchup do for everyone as opposed to the ill-begotten proposed and now irrelevant BYU-Washington overture?

It may have helped the Pac-12 sell its weak inventory of league games among some poll voters to challenge BYU to play on the eve of the CFP rankings release on Tuesday. The Pac-12/Washington ask was made knowing it was a weak challenge coming days after the Deseret News detailed the difference in BYU and Pac-12 (Utah) testing protocols. Wouldn’t it be cool to force a streaking BYU to “conform” to its convoluted health plan that has delayed and ruined the Pac-12 football season?

Didn’t work.

Never would.