Trends in BYU football scheduling

This week’s announcement of a two game series with Missouri was welcomed by Cougarfans everywhere, despite adding difficulty to an already incredibly difficult 2015 schedule. This announcement follows several of the trends that have recently developed around BYU football scheduling. These trends include: 1) BYU gaining national exposure through a national schedule, 2) BYU scheduling a lot of games to be played in NFL stadiums, and 3) BYU’s scheduling home and homes where the first game of the series is on the road and the second game is played at home. Let’s look at some of the details and what each of these three trends mean.

BYU wants national exposure. So they created their own TV studio, signed an awesome eight year contract with ESPN, and now play teams all across the country. It’s no secret that BYU wants to play the best teams in the country, they are even willing to schedule one-and-dones with the best programs (i.e. Nebraska, Michigan, Notre Dame). Over the first five years of independence BYU has played (or will play) a total of 38 teams from 10 different conferences, including 17 teams from P5 conferences (45%).

Ideally, most of the cougar schedule would consist of P5 teams from across the country, with a few “best of the rest” as well as a couple cupcakes to balance out the schedule. In an era where strength of schedule truly matters Tom Holmoe has his hands full just getting teams to agree to play BYU. The ACC and SEC recently dubbed BYU “not a P5” team in connection with scheduling. Meanwhile coaches from most of BYU’s scheduled P5 opponents (including those in the top P5 conferences) reiterate that BYU is indeed a “P5 caliber” team. Fortunately TH and company have done an admirable job in getting P5 opponents. The trend doesn’t look good with 4, 5, and 7 P5 teams in years 1-3 but only 3 and 4 in years 4-5. But just looking at P5 vs non-P5 is deceptive. Strength of Schedule from top to bottom is definitely improving from year to year. Most of the lower level WAC opponents from years 1-3 have now been replaced with medium to high MWC and AAC opponents in years 4-5.

Other things to consider in gaining exposure include television contracts, days of the week, and times in the day. There are some positive trends happening in these areas. There were 3, 4, 3, and 5 non-Saturday games played in the first four years of independence, but only one scheduled for 2015 (the almost mandatory Friday of General Conference weekend). And the Thursday and Friday slots BYU has occupied has been an overall positive for the program in terms of exposure. While the actual in-stadium attendance for those games have been comparable to Saturday attendance, the television ratings have actually been better than the average Saturday games. Every weekday game has been broadcast by a major network so people all over are watching those games.

NFL Stadiums. Another way of increasing exposure is by playing big-time games at big-time venues. One way BYU has done this is by playing at NFL stadiums. Back in 2009 BYU upset the then #3 ranked Oklahoma Sooners before a sellout crowd of 75,437 in Dallas Cowboys Stadium.

BYU plays in an NFL stadium almost every year with 31 appearances in the last 40 seasons. However many of those games came either against SDSU who plays all their games in Qualcomm Stadium, other PAC12 teams in “neutral” games, or in bowl games.

During the independence era BYU has proactively sought out additional NFL venues.   BYU played against Houston at Reliant Stadium (Houston Texans) in 2013. BYU will play Missouri (SEC) at Arrowhead Stadium (KC Chiefs) in 2015. And in 2016 BYU plays West Virginia at FedEx Field (Washington Redskins) AND Arizona at the University of Phoenix Stadium (Arizona Cardinals). BYU has at least two other future games scheduled, coming against UMASS at Gillette Stadium (NE Patriots) in 2018 and 2019. These games in NFL stadiums attack television viewers and in-stadium viewers alike and certainly assist in bringing more exposure to BYU and it’s football program, especially when they occur outside the Western footprint.

Away and then Home. One of the concerns regarding scheduling is that many of BYU’s scheduling agreements having us playing on the road first, with a return trip to LES coming somewhere down the road. This gives the opponent the opportunity of backing out of a game in Provo, buying out their contract. This trend is concerning to many BYU fans and a point of criticism from BYU’s detractors. However, of the 60 games scheduled in Independence thus far (2011-2015) only two teams have backed out of contracts: Notre Dame after they joined the ACC and Southern Miss. In both cases BYU benefited from a lucrative buy-out clauses.

Playing the first game at home doesn’t necessarily mean anything, but it is typically the stronger program that gets the first home game, which essentially guarantees they make money off the scheduling agreement. That means most of BYU’s big-time matchups are on the road first (USC, Notre Dame, Stanford, Washington, Wisconsin), or road-only series (Michigan, Nebraska). However, BYU also has its share of home-first series against respectable programs (ASU, Cincinnati, Washington State). As an independent it is unreasonable to expect to be in the drivers seat in negotiations with big-time programs so the only way BYU will overcome this trend is by becoming a Big-time program.

In all these scheduling trends are indicative of who BYU is and where they are headed as a program. They are certainly playing a national schedule that is gradually strengthening as BYU is establishing itself as an independent that travels well and provides a quality match-up. So what do y’all think are the downsides of scheduling in the independent era? Is there anything BYU can and should be doing differently? Let us know in the comment section below.

2011 BYU football Schedule

Date Time Opponent Conf Television Attend TV ratings (viewers)
Sat, Sept 3 2:45 PM @ Ole Miss SEC ESPN 55124 1.5
Sat, Sept 10 5:00 PM @ Texas BIG12 ESPN2 100995 1.6
Sat, Sept 17 7:15 PM Utah PAC12 ESPN2 63742 0.6
Fri, Sept 23 6:00 PM UCF Big East ESPN 59874 1.6
Fri, Sept 30 6:00 PM Utah State WAC ESPN 63513 1.6
Sat, Oct 8 8:15 PM San Jose State WAC ESPNU 59782
Sat, Oct 15 2:00 PM @ Oregon State PAC12 KBYU 42584
Sat, Oct 22 1:00 PM Idaho State FCS BYUtv 60043
Fri, Oct 28 6:00 PM TCU MWC ESPN 50094
Sat, Nov 12 7:15 PM Idaho WAC ESPN2 57770
Sat, Nov 19 8:15 PM New Mexico State WAC ESPNU 57134
Sat, Dec 3 5:30 PM Hawaii WAC ESPN2 34446
Dec 30 10:00 AM Tulsa ESPN 30258

2012 BYU football Schedule

Date Time Opponent Conf Television Attend TV ratings (viewers)
Thu, Aug 30 8:15 PM Washington St PAC12 ESPN 57045 1.5 (2.2m)
Sat, Sept 8 1:00 PM Weber State Big Sky BYUtv 60314
Sat, Sept 15 8:00 PM @ Utah PAC12 ESPN2 45653
Thu, Sept 20 7:00 PM @ Boise State MWC ESPN 36864 1.4 (2.1m)
Fri, Sept 28 6:00 PM Hawaii WAC ESPN 62022 1.0 (1.4m)
Fri, Oct 5 8:15 PM Utah State WAC ESPN 63086 0.9 (1.4m)
Sat, Oct 13 1:30 PM Oregon State PAC12 ABC/ESPN3 63489 3.1 (4.6m)
Sat, Oct 20 1:30 PM @ Notre Dame Indep NBC 80795 2.4 (3.7m)
Sat, Oct 27 1:00 PM @ Georgia Tech ACC ROOT/ESPN3 50103
Sat, Nov 10 8:15 PM Idaho WAC ESPNU 61009 0.1 (191k)
Sat, Nov 17 8:30 PM San Jose State WAC ESPN2 15494 0.3 (455k)
Sat, Nov 24 1:30 PM New Mexico St WAC ESPN3 12571
Thur, Dec 20 San Diego St MWC ESPN 1.5 (2.2m)

2013 BYU football Schedule

Date Time Opponent Conf Television Attend TV ratings (viewers)
Sat, Aug 31 1:30 PM @ Virginia ACC ESPNU 53310 0.2 (299k)
Sat, Sept 7 5:00 PM Texas Big12 ESPN2 63197 0.8 (1.2m)
Sat, Sept 21 8:15 PM Utah PAC12 ESPN2 63470 0.8 (1.26m)
Fri, Sept 27 7:00 PM Middle Tennessee CUSA ESPNU 58763 0.2 (313k)
Fri, Oct 4 6:00 PM @ Utah State MWC CBSSN 25513
Sat, Oct 12 5:00 PM Georgia Tech ACC ESPNU 60320 0.2 (358k)
Sat Oct 19 1:30 PM @ Houston AAC ESPNews 33115 0.1 (205k)
Fri, Oct 25 6:00 PM Boise State MWC ESPN 62954 1.2 (1.97m)
Sat, Nov 9 1:30 PM @ Wisconsin B10 ESPN 80191 1.3 (2.18m)
Sat, Nov 16 1:00 PM Idaho State FCS BYUtv 58645
Sat, Nov 23 1:30 PM @ Notre Dame Indep NBC 80795 1.5 (2.29m)
Sat, Nov 30 1:00 PM @ Nevada MWC CBSSN 21540
Dec 27 7:30 PM Washington PAC12 ESPN 34136 2.3

2014 BYU football Schedule    

Date Time Opponent Conf Television Attend TV ratings (viewers)
Fri, Aug 29 5:00 PM @ UCONN AAC ESPN 35150 0.7 (1.08m)
Sat, Sept 6 5:30 PM @ Texas Big 12 FS1 93463 0.5 (910k)
Thur, Sept 11 7:00 PM Houston AAC ESPN 57630 0.6 (1.05m)
Sat, Sept 20 1:30 PM Virginia ACC ESPN 59023 1.0 (1.64m)
Fri, Oct 3 8:15 PM Utah State MWC ESPN 64090 0.8 (1.17m)
Thu, Oct 9 5:30 PM @UCF AAC ESPN 41547 0.9 (1.34m)
Sat, Oct 18 8:15 PM Nevada MWC ESPN2 56355 0.2 (404k)
Fri, Oct 24 7:00 PM @Boise State MWC ESPN 36752 0.6 (1.02m)
Sat, Nov 1 1:30 PM @ Middle Tennessee CUSA CBSSN 18952
Sat, Nov 15 5:00 PM UNLV MWC ESPNU 53622  0.1 (235k)
Sat, Nov 22 1:00 PM Savannah State FCS BYUtv 52123
Sat, Nov 29 TBA @ California PAC12 PAC12 47856
Mon, Dec 22 2:00 PM  Memphis AAC ESPN

2015 BYU football Schedule

Date Time Opponent Conf Television Attend TV ratings (viewers)
Sat, Sept 5 @ Nebraska B10
Sat, Sept 12 Boise State MWC
Sat, Sept 19 @ UCLA PAC12
Sat, Sept 26 @ Michigan B10
Fri, Oct 2 UCONN AAC
Sat, Oct 10 East Carolina AAC
Sat, Oct 17 Cincinnati AAC
Sat, Oct 24 Idaho State FCS
Sat, Nov 7 @ San Jose State MWC
Sat, Nov 14 @ Missouri SEC
Sat, Nov 21 Fresno State MWC
Sat, Nov 28 @ Utah State MWC