Analysis: BYU football is facing difficult questions after Army game postponed
What was Army athletic director Mike Buddie trying to say when he tweeted about trying to find a new opponent for Saturday?
PROVO — Optics go a long way in this day and age of social media and the 24-hour news cycle, and in the case of BYU having to postpone (or possibly cancel) its football game set for Sept. 19 against Army, the optics aren’t good for the Cougar football program.
Whether the postponement will have a lasting impact on the viability of the Cougars’ season remains to be seen. News releases from both programs pointed at BYU and a “small number COVID-19 tests results and the resulting tracing exposures within the BYU football program” as the reason why the game was shelved.
No matter how one looks at it, however, it can’t be viewed as a positive development in Provo, which suddenly has a ranked team for the first time since 2018. If Army officials saw those social media posts of social gatherings and parties in Utah County the past two weekends, they probably weren’t amused.
Bad optics, even if no BYU football players were present. The dance parties, presumably filled by BYU students not wearing face coverings, certainly have BYU’s administration alarmed.
1/ Thx to all who've helped keep campus safe this week. We're encouraged so many are following requirements on campus. However, we're concerned w/ reports & videos circulating about off-campus activities. Behavior this weekend could make or break our ability to remain on campus.— BYU (@BYU) September 4, 2020
On the football side, the question has to be asked: Has the program been responsible in how it’s handled the coronavirus? And what effect will that have on the attitudes of future opponents scheduled to visit LaVell Edwards Stadium, beginning Sept. 26 when Troy is slated as the opponent for the Cougars’ home opener?
Some answers might come Monday when coach Kalani Sitake and a few “select players” are made available to the media via a Zoom video teleconference, but if Sitake sticks to his his standard operating procedure regarding questions about off-the-field issues, he will defer those to athletic director Tom Holmoe, who rarely talks to the local media and whose task of finding additional opponents might have gotten a whole lot more difficult.
Army athletic director Mike Buddie is talking, however.
The second-year AD made a post on Twitter Sunday morning, ostensibly asking for an opponent to fill BYU’s shoes this Saturday that some interpreted as a subtle shot at BYU, maybe even a little passive-aggressive. Other BYU fans laughed it off as an attempt at humor, a mock dating profile.
You be the judge:
“Undefeated, COVID negative college football team from NY (Army) looking for like-minded, disciplined team for a date next Saturday … must also be COVID negative! Twitter, do your thing!”
Undefeated, COVID negative college football team from NY looking for like minded, disciplined team for a date next Saturday... must also be COVID negative!— Mike Buddie (@Buddie52) September 13, 2020
Twitter, do your thing!
Was Buddie, formerly at Furman and Wake Forest, insinuating that BYU players (assuming it is players who tested positive, BYU’s release never used that word) were not disciplined?
Again — a lot is left open to interpretation.
Know this: In almost every interview that a BYU player or coach gave in the days leading up to the 55-3 walloping of Navy, they mentioned what a great job the BYU administration and sports medicine staff was doing in keeping the players and coaches safe.
The Cougars began testing everybody associated with the program three times a week when fall camp began on Aug. 4. Protocols were said to be strict and beyond what the NCAA asked for on Aug. 5. Players such as quarterback Zach Wilson and receiver Dax Milne stressed the importance of following all the guidelines — creating a bubble, if you will — so the Cougars could have a season.
The bigger question for BYU is this: Can the program recover the lost game, or replace it with other opponents who might just be a little more wary of the private, independent school that is publicizing its COVID-19 testing results on its website but isn’t giving specific numbers of student-athletes who have tested positive? Really, that’s the question most sports fans want answered.
How many players, exactly, constitute that “small number?”
From Buddie’s tweet, it appears that Army is moving on. If the Black Knights find an opponent for Saturday’s game, it becomes highly doubtful they would want to see BYU on Nov. 28, which as of now is the only available and reasonable date left for a makeup game.
Man, BYU and Army are both ranked now, what a shame that game got postponed. https://t.co/MFj4489Yd7— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) September 13, 2020
Cougar Nation awaits Buddie’s next tweet.