PROVO — When the Big 10 announced Thursday, and the Pac-12 announced Friday, that they are playing a conference-only football schedule this fall, it impacted independent BYU in a major way, costing the Cougars five games.
BYU was set to host the Big Ten’s Michigan State in their home-opener on Sept. 12 and to visit Big Ten’s Minnesota on Sept. 26. BYU won’t play Utah, Arizona State and Stanford of the Pac-12, either. All five of those games have been canceled.
Other games on BYU’s schedule are in jeopardy if other conferences decide to follow the lead of the Big Ten and Pac-12 in scheduling during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Meanwhile, Northern Illinois announced earlier this week that its game with BYU, scheduled for Oct. 24, has been moved from Chicago back to the Huskies’ home stadium, Brigham Field at Huskie Stadium.
But, of course, this isn’t the first time that the Cougars have had games canceled, postponed or moved to a different location due to various external forces.
When the Spanish Flu ravaged the United States from 1918-20, BYU didn’t field a football team. The Cougars’ first official season took place in 1922.
- From 1943-45, BYU did not play football due to World War II, though various teams from around the country continued playing. At BYU, those seasons were canceled.
- Throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s, groups of Black players boycotted games against BYU as a protest to what they viewed as racial discrimination practiced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which owns and operates BYU — most notably the infamous “Black 14” incident at Wyoming. But no games were canceled, even though the circumstances surrounding some contests were played amid protests and threats of violence.
In the modern era, the Cougars have experienced some schedule disruptions.
- BYU saw its 2001 game against Mississippi State moved from Sept. 15 to Dec. 1 due to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The Cougars ended up beating the Bulldogs in Starkville, Mississippi, 41-38, as they improved to 12-0.
BYU was originally scheduled to play at Hawaii on Dec. 1, so that game in Honolulu was bumped back a week to Dec. 8. The outcome in Hawaii was not good for the Cougars, who were routed by the Rainbow Warriors, 72-45.
- In 2007, with wildfires raging out of control throughout Southern California, the Mountain West Conference postponed BYU’s Oct. 27 game against San Diego State. The Cougars and Aztecs made up the game on Dec. 1, with BYU beating SDSU, 48-27.
- In 2015, 32 African-American football players at the University of Missouri announced they would stop participating in football activities until university system president Tim Wolfe resigned, less than a week before BYU’s scheduled game with Missouri on Nov. 14 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City. Missouri’s Legion of Black Collegians were angry in the wake of several recent racial incidents on campus and the way Wolfe has dealt with them. On Monday, Nov. 9, Wolfe stepped down, preserving the game. The Tigers beat the Cougars, 20-16.
- In 2017, the game between BYU and Louisiana State, scheduled for NRG Stadium in Houston, was moved to New Orleans and the Superdome due to catastrophic flooding and destruction caused by Hurricane Harvey. The Tigers throttled the Cougars in New Orleans, 27-0.
This week, the BYU athletic department is scrambling to figure out what to do now with the scheduling changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Big Ten’s announcement today obviously has specific ramifications regarding the 2020 BYU football schedule,” read a statement released Thursday by BYU after the Big Ten’s announcement. “As we navigate the uncertainties of the current pandemic, BYU will continue to have discussions with other universities and our stakeholders to make the best possible decisions for our student-athletes and our athletic program.”
BYU football has faced scheduling crises before in its history. But nothing like this.