BYU football showcased the upcoming season of independence at National Media Day in the new BYU broadcasting building Tuesday. Head coach Bronco Mendenhall will be leading the Cougars in independence for the next three years up through 2013, with a contract extension that was revealed during the event.
The first live media day from the campus of BYU, featured current BYU coaches and players as well as Cougar legends LaVell Edwards, Ty Detmer, Steve Young, Trevor Matich and Bryan Kehl. The live broadcast on BYUtv reached approximately 55 million homes as national and local media gathered to hear the state of the football program.
“It’s great to be able to know that Cougar Nation is out there in mass, being able to watch for the first time live media day from the campus of BYU,” BYU Athletic Director Tom Holmoe said. “This is a first, but we really hope that there will be many more to follow — many more shows, games, interviews, and much, much more.”
The first season of independence was made possible with the eight-year ESPN partnership and the state-of-the-art broadcast facilities at BYU. ESPN Vice President of Programming David Brown is excited to move forward with BYU football and provide unprecedented coverage of Cougar football to college sports fans across the nation.
“As this season starts out the thing that I’m really the most excited about … is the fact that the first five games are going to be on ESPN or ESPN2, and eight games next year already, right from the get go will be on ESPN or ESPN2,” Brown said. “That stacks up with just the top echelon of the sport, in terms of number of national telecasts.”
BYU fans will be able to access Cougar football in multiple digital platforms in the upcoming season. BYU Broadcasting launched a Roku channel this past week along with an iPhone and iPod App that will stream live HD video. BYU Radio also hit the airwaves of Sirius XM satellite radio on July 1. Every football game will be rebroadcast, including ESPN rebroadcasts on BYU Televsion.
Mendenhall understands the risks and pressure associated with independence and acknowledged that some college football fans will follow BYU just to see if they will stumble or excel under the increased exposure.
“Let’s face it. There’s risk involved, but with any great opportunity and any chance to move forward, when hasn’t there been risk,” Mendenhall said. “I’m willing to take the risk. Our institution and our program is supportive and ready for that and ESPN has chosen to capture that. It’s intriguing.”
Recruits are beginning to take notice of BYU’s increased exposure and the opportunity to play quality football programs throughout the country. Mendenhall said the football program will not lose a single recruit for no longer being a member of the Mountain West Conference.
The Honor Code continues to attract players of other faiths who are committed to values of honor and integrity and sets apart BYU football from other programs in the country, Mendenhall said. The schedule and partnership with ESPN will continue to allow BYU to take a step forward recruiting the top LDS and non-LDS athletes.
The greatest obstacle moving forward with independence continues to be scheduling, especially later in the season as other schools are in the thick of conference play. Holmoe and Mendenhall look to develop a balanced schedule that will feature quality opponents throughout the season.
“We’re going to be able to find a lot of great teams to play. We’re having any easier time finding those teams on the biggest stages early in the season rather than mid to late as they get into conference play,” Mendenhall said. “I’m hopeful as Notre Dame has stepped up that we can make that a long-term rivalry.”
Mendenhall feels Notre Dame is a natural rivalry with the religious affiliation and history of their program and looks to develop future rivalries with teams such as Boise State, Boston College, Hawaii and independents Army and Navy.
BYU’s legends said they are eager to watch the transition of BYU’s football program from conference affiliation to independence. BYU will no longer have the safety factors involved with playing in a conference and will be on its own throughout the entire season.
“Now without the opportunity of playing for a conference championship, I think it puts a lot of pressure to make sure you come out of the gates really strong and have good victories,” Edwards said. “It’s going to be very exciting to see how it all unfolds and how it all comes together.”
The current BYU players are equally excited for the upcoming season and feel they will be able to showcase their ability in front of a national audience. Sophomore quarterback Jake Heaps said he knows he has an important role to play as the staring quarterback in BYU’s first season of independence and looks to be a leader on and off the field.
“I’m so excited … to be able to say that I was a part of the first team to be an independent,” Heaps said. “It’s a historic moment for BYU and our football program and to have an opportunity to lead our team through that experience, it’s quite a humbling opportunity.”