PROVO — BYU football coach Kalani Sitake has seen it firsthand. He knows Cougars athletic director Tom Holmoe is working night and day to add more games to the team’s schedule.
As of Friday afternoon, BYU had four opponents lined up for the 2020 season, having aligned with Troy University on Thursday for a home-and-home agreement that will have the Trojans visiting Provo on Sept. 26 and the Cougars visiting Troy, Alabama, in 2026.
“Just to have that on the schedule is a little bit relieving, and I know that we will probably see some more teams come up in the next little bit as Tom keeps working through it,” Sitake said.
Who might those teams be? Sitake isn’t saying, and Holmoe has long since run out of prospects in close proximity to Provo, so that’s anybody’s guess.
The idea that BYU might return to South Bend, Indiana, to face Notre Dame even though the Irish still haven’t returned a game they owe the Cougars in Provo has been bandied about. After all, these are desperate times.
“I know Tom has been working hard. He doesn’t put any limits on anything. He keeps working,” Sitake said. “He is the busiest man I have been around for a long time. Even when we have our meetings and stuff, his phone is always blowing up.”
In addition to searching high and low for opponents after 10 from BYU’s original schedule have gone away — only Houston and North Alabama remain — Holmoe has “done a great job communicating with all of us, so it has been really cool to see his leadership take place, and I am honored to have him as an athletic director,” Sitake said.
As of Friday, no BYU players had “opted out” of playing in 2020 due to concerns over COVID-19 and possible long-term health affects of the virus. Receiver Dax Milne, whose high school (Bingham) had to cancel its opener Friday because several players tested positive for the novel coronavirus, said he’s had some conversations with friends around the state at other programs whose seasons were postponed to the spring.
“I have a buddy down at SUU, and he has some mixed feelings about it being canceled,” Milne said, “and it is kinda cool, being the only team in the West that is ready and able to play, but no one is really giving me any heat for it.”
Senior defensive tackle Zac Dawe said he is grateful BYU administrators “are doing everything they can” to give the Cougars a season.
“I think Tom is doing the best he can for us,” Dawe said. “He is always open with us and telling us where it is at. Lately, he has been helping the leadership stay in the loop, like with the games with Troy and also with Navy and just helping keep us on alert and ready to go.”
Sitake sidestepped a question Friday about a threshold number of positive tests the Cougars would have to stay under to continue playing.
“I am just going until they tell me to stop,” Sitake said. “I listen to their guidelines and listen to their advice. I am going to do my part and let them be experts in their field. … It is not my expertise. I know more about football than I do about the virus.”
As for playing Troy in what will likely be BYU’s home opener, Sitake said he rubber-stamped the deal and is eager to match wits with former BYU offensive line coach Ryan Pugh, who is now Troy’s offensive coordinator.
“I am really proud of him,” Sitake said. “He left us and went to be an offensive coordinator. We are really impressed with what he is doing right now, and it will be cool to have him back in Provo and try to defend his offense. It is going to be a lot of fun.”