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Will paying players pay off for BYU?

Will paying players pay off for BYU?

(Ravell Call/Deseret News)

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PROVO — Announcing BYU’s 2014 recruiting class, Bronco Mendenhall pointed to individual relationships and football schemes as two primary reasons the incoming players chose to become Cougars.

“But then ultimately it came down to the environment,” Mendenhall said. “The environment inclusive of BYU means values and it means the education and it means like-minded people, and that was whether they were a member of the LDS faith or not. They loved the environment.”

Come next February, when he unveils the 2016 class, Mendenhall might have to list another reason that seems contrary to those core values that the BYU coach consistently touts. Straight cash, homie.

A faith-based institution paying its players? Who would have thunk it?

With the new cost of attendance regulations, college athletic programs can begin paying athletes above the traditional scholarships in time for the 2015-16 academic year. As the Salt Lake Tribune reported, BYU is going all in by doling out $4,500 each academic year, a figure that is in the top 10 percent nationally.

Booze and premarital sex are out at BYU, but the allure of money is definitely in. Good for the Cougars, who desperately need a jolt in football.

Hopefully, in time, the Big 12 will take notice.

BYU sits in purgatory as an independent in football, not part of the almighty Power 5 conferences despite having a far superior legacy compared to many programs that are in. The cost of attendance stipend sends a strong message the Cougars mean business.

We are going to do what we do best, and this compete as hard as we can, with proper funding. We will raise a lot of money. We will raise whatever money we need to do what we need to do. But we are not going to keep up with the Joneses in every single area.

–Tom Holmoe

For the faithful, this is a great sign. Many BYU diehards want the focus placed on football, mingled with doctrine, and sometimes it appears winning games is not emphasized enough.

By outspending every Pac-12 program, including nearly $1,000 more than Utah, maybe BYU is finally putting the football-is-fifth mantra to bed. The serious fan certainly hopes as much.

Speaking with media members, athletic director Tom Holmoe indicated BYU intends to compete as much as possible. The school already has improved nutrition for athletes.

“We are going to do what we do best, and this compete as hard as we can, with proper funding. We will raise a lot of money,” Holmoe said. “We will raise whatever money we need to do what we need to do. But we are not going to keep up with the Joneses in every single area.”

Essentially, BYU’s hand is forced in football. As it is, the program can’t match the attractions of Utah, which can offer recruits the opportunity to play in a great conference and a chance to compete at the highest level.

Even Utah has its hand forced to a degree, needing to compete with fellow Pac-12 members. There is a reason perennial football powers Oregon and USC won’t worry about being ranked 10th and 12th in the conference in the cost of attendance stipends.

BYU isn’t going high end only for altruistic reasons, as some like to believe. One of them is BYU receivers coach Guy Holliday, who tweeted the following:

You can put your money into buildings and bricks or you can INVEST IN PEOPLE. BYU's cost of attendance shows WE INVEST IN YOU THE PERSON — Coach Guy Holliday (@eagle88me) May 4, 2015

Using that logic, USC and Oregon don't care near as much about players as BYU does. Don’t buy it — BYU has to cough up the cash to stay relevant. The buildings have been in place for a decade, anyway.

None of this means anything unless BYU cashes in on the cash. Three consecutive 8-5 seasons and few players getting taken in the NFL draft prove BYU’s recruiting has been subpar.

If the new stipend makes a difference, then it is money well spent. But after hearing for years that BYU’s environment attracts players, it’s hard to believe money suddenly will become the deciding factor.

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