PROVO — Oh, to be a fly on the wall of BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe’s garage, home office, bedroom or wherever else he conducts business during this insipid COVID-19 pandemic that threatens to destroy the entire 2020 college football season.

Holmoe’s cellphone has been attached to his right ear for more than a month now, ever since the Big Ten decided on July 9 and the Pac-12 on July 10 to play conference football games-only. Those decisions stripped Michigan State, Minnesota, Utah, Arizona State and Stanford from BYU’s schedule, and the hits kept on coming.

Missouri and Northern Illinois eventually fell by the wayside, and when the Mountain West announced Monday it was joining the Mid-American Conference in bypassing fall football for a possible shot at playing in the spring, dates with Boise State, Utah State and San Diego State were also scratched. That leaves the Cougars with only Navy, Houston and North Alabama of the FCS on the docket, and North Alabama is tenuous because the Big South conference to which it belongs could join most others FCS leagues and postpone play until spring.

“We don’t care against who, we just want to play.” — BYU quarterback Baylor Romney

Despite that body blow from the MW, every indication coming out of Provo, from BYU’s administration to head football coach Kalani Sitake to the third-string quarterback, Baylor Romney, is that the Cougars are still clinging to the hope that Holmoe can reconstruct what was once touted as their best schedule in the independence era.

“We don’t care against who, we just want to play,” Romney said on ESPN 960 Monday night.

Monday, Holmoe updated BYU football season ticket holders, saying the news the last few days “left uncertainty as to whether or not there will be a college football season.” Holmoe said it has been BYU’s desire to play, “but the impending decisions made nationally and locally in the coming days will determine whether or not we play this fall.”

To play or not to play: Nation divided over whether to save 2020 college football season
3 more games lopped off BYU’s football schedule as MWC cancels fall sports, but Cougars push forward in camp

The 15-year AD promised continued communication “as important decisions are made regarding the 2020 season.”

Some of those decisions arrived Tuesday. The Big Ten and the Pac-12 pulled the plug on their seasons, saying they will try again in the spring if conditions are better regarding the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Which domino will fall next? All eyes shift toward the three remaining Power Five conferences that had not canceled as of Tuesday afternoon, the SEC, ACC and Big 12.

So what are Holmoe’s options now? Here are a few:

• Desperate times call for desperate measures. So get back on the line with the ADs at fellow independents Liberty and Army (especially Army) and talk about a doubleheader, one there, the other in Provo. Playing the same team twice in one season isn’t so bad — NFL teams do it all the time. Tuesday, one of the other independents, UMass, announced it was joining UConn in postponing its season until spring, so that option is off the table.

• Persuade as many teams in the American Athletic Conference (AAC), which is not only playing a full conference season, but is allowing its members to play up to four nonconference opponents, to join Houston and Navy in adding the Cougars to their schedules this year.

“We would still like to play,” AAC commissioner Mike Aresco told Chris Vannini of The Athletic. “… That the other two conferences (Mountain West and Mid-American) decided not to play is not decisive for us.”

The AAC likes to bill itself as the sixth league in a “Power Six” lineup of conferences; Getting BYU on the schedules of the likes of Cincinnati, SMU, Tulsa, Temple or Central Florida could enhance that image, and maybe convince Holmoe and company that the far-flung conference might be a suitable landing spot one day.

• Brett McMurphy of Stadium reported Monday night that the Sun Belt Conference plans to play sports this fall. At this point, a game is a game, as Romney pointed out. Holmoe should give Appalachian State, Georgia Southern or Troy a call, if he hasn’t yet.

• Similarly, Conference USA still plans to play this fall, reported McMurphy on Monday. Although CUSA member Old Dominion canceled its fall season, the other schools are “holding firm on playing in the fall,” McMurphy tweeted. The league has 13 teams — seven in the West and six in the East — so it could presumably play more crossover games, but some might jump at the opportunity to get a “paycheck” game at BYU, after other buy games were canceled when the SEC went to conference games-only.

• The Mountain West is making an allowance for Air Force to play at least two games in 2020, against fellow service academies Army and Navy for the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy. 

Air Force “will have the opportunity to explore competitions against Army and Navy, if conditions allow as we have similar physical missions across the service academies, AFA athletic director Nate Pine said in a tweet Monday night.

Since the Falcons are playing anyway, would the league allow them to schedule a game against BYU? Probably not, but it can’t hurt to ask.

View Comments

• When could these games be played? No team still standing has a more wide-open schedule right now than BYU, and few have an agreement with ESPN as the Cougars do. Surely, Holmoe is in close contact with the worldwide leader in sports broadcasting. The duo was creative in setting up the Labor Day showdown with Navy. More of the same, please.

Because the Cougars are playing on Monday, Sept. 7, it is unlikely they would agree to a game the following Saturday, Sept. 12, because it would only be a five-day turnaround after a 2,000-mile cross country trip to the East Coast.

They’ve done it before, playing on Thursday nights after a Saturday game, but not after a lengthy airplane ride like the one to Navy will be.

Friday night, Oct. 16, is reserved for Houston. Other than that, the calendar’s mostly open.

Join the Conversation
Looking for comments?
Find comments in their new home! Click the buttons at the top or within the article to view them — or use the button below for quick access.