BYU has a rich history in football, mostly with players of the Mormon faith. But for the first time since the program started in 1922 the Cougars will be an independent this fall. Will the move be a boon for recruiting and lead to BYU becoming the “Notre Dame of the West”?
BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe has talked openly about the Cougars’ move toward independence, which coincides with rival Utah’s move to the Pac-12.
“Independence could be an incredible shot in the arm,” Holmoe told CBSSports.com. “Does it help and push us forward? Yes. Now if we are good – only one thing that means good and that means winning games – that could be a great push and momentum and who knows where we go?”
The Deseret News reported, citing BYU offensive coordinator Brandon Doman, that a move to independent already has sparked positive gains on the recruiting trail. Doman said recruiting has been impacted “quite significantly.”
The newspaper said that the Cougars already have received verbal commitments from linebacker and Florida native Bobby Wolford and California running back Jamaal Williams, both of whom are not Mormons.
There’s no doubt that a move away from the Mountain West Conference – and teams like New Mexico, Colorado State and Wyoming – allows BYU a more national profile and an opportunity to schedule big-time opponents.
In 2011, BYU will face Ole Miss, Texas, Utah and UCF. Notre Dame, West Virginia, Oregon State, Boise State, Georgia Tech and Utah are on the docket for future seasons.
Oh yeah, there’s that little matter of an eight-year contract with ESPN and its family of networks, which will televise every BYU game except one for the duration of the deal. That one game will be on BYUtv, which beams into 60 million homes.
The combination of big-time opponents and constant national exposure will allow the Cougars to provide prospective recruits with an increasingly appealing pitch. But will it work?
Last season, 18 of the 19 players signed by the school were Mormons. While it’s certainly not a knock on LDS players, it’s a logical conclusion that, if a school dips into a singular pool, it’s less likely to have well-rounded talent.
However, the coaching staff insists that BYU is committed to finding the best players – not just the best of the LDS crop.
“We don’t just want the best LDS athletes, we want the best athletes that have the same standards that we have here at BYU. Period,” BYU assistant coach Joe DuPaix told the Deseret News.
“Our job is to bring in the best possible talent out there.”
The latter part of that quote is necessary: BYU will be in over its head against other BCS schools if it can’t recruit nationally. But when DuPaix speaks about standards, he’s highlighting the school’s biggest difference: the honor code.
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