PROVO, Utah — In less than two weeks, the BYU Cougars will be kicking off their 2020 football season against Navy. Former players say there is still a lot of uncertainty about how long the season will last, but BYU will definitely take advantage of the fact that they’re the only college team in the state taking the field, at all.
Riley Nelson was one of BYU’s starting quarterbacks when the university went independent. He believes, at first, the school was getting a lot of praise for that decision. But, Nelson says after a while, lost some of its luster.
He says, “All of the schedules were front-loaded. All the good games were in [the beginning.] There were season ticket holders that really didn’t have a meaningful game in Lavell Edwards Stadium after [General] Conference weekend.”
Now, independence is the only reason why BYU is having a season, at all, which is hugely beneficial to the players trying to make their way to the pros. Nelson says those players need fresh film of their gameplay if they really want to stand out.
“Yeah, the scouts can go back to 2019 and look at what was there, but you’re sitting there as a player who has worked his butt off throughout the entire offseason and saying, ‘I’m not that player, anymore. I’m better in all of these ways,’ but you can’t showcase it on the field.”
Nelson says people in other sports like basketball or baseball may be able to simulate would gameplay would look like, but they really can’t do that with football.
“The injury risk is too high to be having guys strap up all the time to be doing full-pad, full-contact, 11 on 11 game-like scenarios throughout the entire year. It just doesn’t work that way.”
Currently, BYU has six confirmed games on its schedule, and KSL’s BYU Insider Mitch Harper says the school is working on getting two more. Harper says Athletic Director Tom Holmoe has been busy working the phones to find more opponents, but BYU had an ace up their sleeve.
“It also helps BYU that they have a TV partnership with ESPN. They just started a new television contract with ESPN this year,” Harper says.
The network reportedly convinced teams to play in Provo, since BYU is the only team west of Texas for the 2020 football season and they need teams to play during their west coast time slots.
“ESPN, from their standpoint, they need inventory because they lost The PAC-12, the Mountain West Conference and they lost the Big 10 Conference, as well.”
Harper says even if the season is short and the teams they’re playing against aren’t exactly powerhouses, just having any season at all will save the school a lot of money since they won’t be missing out on TV revenue, unlike their rivals the University of Utah.
“Utah is, in essence, bogged down by being in the PAC-12 Conference which has one-third of its conference placed in the state of California which has had strict restrictions on teams even practicing or being in the classroom.”
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