Return of BYU Football uncertain

By Josh Carter

Recent developments within the college sports world have left BYU fans increasingly uncertain about the upcoming 2020 football season.

On July 8, the Ivy League announced it would be placing all sports on hold until at least January because of the COVID-19 pandemic. That same day, Stanford announced it was eliminating 11 of its athletic programs due to financial complications worsened by the pandemic. Ohio State and North Carolina then had to shut down their voluntary football workouts on July 8 due to COVID-19 outbreaks on campus.

Additionally, on July 9 the Big Ten conference announced it would be moving to a conference-only season for all fall sports, leaving BYU Football with a pair of vacancies in its upcoming schedule. The Cougars were slated to host Michigan State on Sept. 12 and play at Minnesota on Sept. 26.

“The Big Ten’s announcement today obviously has specific ramifications regarding the 2020 BYU football schedule,” a BYU Athletics press release reads. “As we navigate the uncertainties of the current pandemic, BYU will continue to have discussions with other universities and stakeholders to make the best possible decisions for our student-athletes and our athletic program.”

The Pac-12 followed suit on July 10 by announcing it too would play a conference-only 2020 season, cutting an additional three games from BYU’s schedule. The Cougars were lined up to play Utah on Sept. 3, Arizona State on Sept. 19 and Stanford on Nov. 28. BYU’s 2020 schedule was suddenly cut from a full 12 games to just seven.

“I don’t think it is crazy to say this: We are probably not going to play any sports in the fall,” BYU Sports Nation host Jarom Jordan said on the show’s July 9 airing.

An online poll was later conducted by BYU Sports Nation, asking whether fans felt there would be college football this fall. Just 37% of those who responded voted yes, while 64% voted no. 

While much remains up in the air, the current outlook does not appear to be heading in the Cougars’ favor.

A number of contingency plan possibilities remain, however, for BYU Football to salvage at least some of the upcoming season if more conferences are to join the Big Ten and Pac-12 in playing conference-only schedules. The Cougars could attempt to fill their scheduling gaps caused by the Big Ten and Pac-12’s announcements with other teams that were similarly affected. Several Power-5 teams are now left with holes in their schedules on the same dates BYU was slated to face its Big Ten and Pac-12 opponents.

Some have also suggested the Cougars look to join a conference for the season, which, depending on the conference, might not be the most popular move among fans. Joining a conference could also potentially complicate BYU’s upcoming TV deal with ESPN.

“BYU gonna have to hope they can partner up with the mountain west for football season….,” @Tjonesonthenba said on Twitter.

Another possibility for the Cougars if all conferences were to move to conference-only schedules would be to play against their six fellow independent teams this season. Dennis Dodd of cbssports.com first reported in April that independents were already speaking to each other informally about the possibility.

“Playing conference-only schedules has been an option on the table, though it was primarily under the consideration if the start of the season needed to be delayed,” Dodd wrote.

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