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BYU needs bowl agreement in the West

BYU needs bowl agreement in the West

(Stuart Johnson, Deseret News, File)



Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

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PROVO — With no individual or conference affiliation agreement in place, BYU does not have a bowl destination set up for next season.

In time, athletic director Tom Holmoe will come up with a bowl arrangement if the football team meets the minimum requirement of six wins. Let’s hope the site is in the western part of the country against a familiar opponent.

“I’m not really concerned with not knowing where we’re going bowling next year,” said BYU coach Kalani Sitake.

Since becoming an independent before the 2011 season, BYU has played bowl games in Fort Worth, Texas, San Diego, San Francisco, Miami and Las Vegas. The Cougars are back in San Diego this season to again play in the Poinsettia Bowl against Wyoming. They are scheduled to return to San Diego in 2018 and then go to Hawaii in 2019.

One of the knocks of being an independent is the absence of bowl suspense. Teams with conference affiliations usually go most of the season without knowing their postseason destinations.

BYU always knows where it’s going in December before the first month of the season is over. The only exceptions would be if the Cougars didn’t reach six wins or put together a special season to qualify for the College Football Playoff or one of the New Year’s Day bowls. But since the Cougars rarely emerge from September unscathed, they likely won’t be going to any of the more glamorous bowls any time soon.

More concerned with preparing his team wherever it goes, Sitake will let Holmoe handle the postseason details. He sees advantages to knowing the bowl destination before the season or waiting until later in the year for a game to open up.

“I see the positives of knowing where we’re going ahead of time because we were able to get a lot of stuff organized and (know) where we were going to practice, so it made things a lot easier,” Sitake said. “Once we became bowl eligible we knew where we were going. I guess there’s positives on every side.”

BYU's best options

To allow for the program to look as good as possible, BYU would be best served to negotiate a long-term deal with a game in the West. Knowing the destination weeks ahead of time allows the fans ample time to make travel plans.

Along this line, BYU’s best options are either the Poinsettia or Las Vegas bowls. BYU has a rich history with both bowl locations in different ways.

As a member of the Western Athletic Conference, the program played in the Holiday Bowl in San Diego for seven consecutive years starting in 1979. Highlights during those years include a stunning comeback to beat Southern Methodist in 1980 and beating Michigan to cap an undefeated season in 1984. BYU also played in the game four times over a five-year period starting in 1989.

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The Las Vegas game basically owes its existence to BYU, which played there five consecutive years beginning in 2005. Before BYU’s run in Las Vegas, the game was on the verge of losing NCAA accreditation due to miserable attendance.

A long-term agreement to play in Las Vegas could pay off for BYU, especially if the community follows through with plans to build an NFL-caliber stadium. The Oakland Raiders have indicated interest in moving to southern Nevada if a stadium is built.

In helping the Holiday Bowl grow substantially in stature, BYU has proven to be a great draw in San Diego. Poinsettia Bowl officials likely would be receptive to hooking up with BYU.

“I like the idea,” said Ted Tollner, a long-time college and NFL coach who serves as the 2016 president of the San Diego Bowl Game Association. “There’s some potential there. It has to be worked out.”

The contract to either game could include stipulations that allow BYU to get out of any individual year if the program is selected to a more prestigious bowl.

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