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Provo • For athletic director Tom Holmoe, BYU's announcement six weeks ago that it was going independent in football didn't signal an end to countless phone calls, meetings and conference affiliation issues.
In reality, it meant even more work for the former BYU and NFL player and Cal football coach. A lot more work.
Along with other issues such as bowl tie-ins, television deals and qualification into the Bowl Championship Series, the most pressing matter for Holmoe was somewhat simpler:
Without a conference affiliation in 2011 and beyond, who will the Cougars play?
Holmoe said three weeks ago that he was "fairly close" to finalizing BYU's 2011 and 2012 schedules, but since then the only scheduling announcements he has made involve a game against West Virginia in 2016 on a neutral field and the report Thursday that the series with Utah will continue for at least the next two years.
"It has been difficult," Holmoe conceded. "If it wasn't, maybe other schools would do it. It is hard to do, but I think it is going to pay dividends. So, I would disagree that it can't be done."
Ten games have been set for 2011. BYU can play 13 games next year if it elects to use an NCAA exemption that allows for an extra game when a school travels to Hawaii. Holmoe said he's not sure if that will happen.
For now, the Cougars in 2011 are scheduled to play at Oregon State, Texas, Hawaii and Louisiana Tech and at home against Utah State, Central Florida, New Mexico State, Idaho, San Jose State and Utah (on Sept. 17).
In the deal announced last week, BYU will play at Utah on Sept. 15, 2012. No rivalry games have been set beyond that, but Holmoe and Utah athletic director Chris Hill have said they want to play annually. Utah even canceled a series with Boise State to make it work.
Coach Bronco Mendenhall said Monday his preference is to play Utah the last game of the season, but realizes that's probably not going to happen again with the Utes moving to the Pac-10 in 2011.
"One of the other ideas that intrigues me until we get to that point is to [play] the BYU-Utah game the Friday night before [LDS Church general] conference," he said, "and make that an annual date to play the game."
The scheduling deal BYU agreed to with the Western Athletic Conference that provides games against four WAC teams in 2011 and three in 2012 has been helpful, Holmoe said. A deal signed in 2007 calls for Utah State to play at BYU in both 2011 and 2012.
A four-game agreement to play Boise State beginning in 2012 was contracted last year and is still in play, despite BSU's move to the MWC next year. Holmoe and Boise State athletic director Gene Bleymaier spoke shortly after BYU's independence announcement and agreed to keep the contract.
As for whom the Cougars will play in the two or three other games, Holmoe said he is close to getting the games contracted, but won't discuss which schools are involved for fear of disrupting the negotiations.
"We are trying to put a few touches on it that will make it better," he said. "It will take a while longer probably than I thought, but it is something that I work with [Mendenhall] on to make sure we get the best possible schedule for next year in regards to timing."
There's no deadline to set BYU's 2011 schedule, but Holmoe said he'd like to have it done by the end of this month. He said changes in conference affiliation across the country have clouded the picture.
"There are some loose pieces out there because of the movement with the Big Ten, the Big 12, the Pac-10, the WAC. There are a lot of teams that have changed their membership, and they are changing their schedules. There is still going to be movement in the 2011 schedule because of … the change in the number of teams in conferences … Those will all factor in to the changes, and what teams have openings in their schedules," he said.
Holmoe said he has consulted with Mendenhall on all the scheduling issues, and the two are on the same page regarding the types of teams they would like to play.
Mendenhall said last month there are three "criteria" he asked Holmoe to look for in future opponents.
"I like the idea of playing a national schedule and that we cover the country to make sure our fans and church members around the country can see us play in person," Mendenhall said. "I like the idea of having natural rivalries and intriguing matchups. I have already mentioned Hawaii, Notre Dame, possibly Boston College. Games like that are intriguing. Then the third component I like has to do with schools that have a very unique campus, or traditions, which would be a great place to go play a college football game."
Mendenhall also mentioned Army, Navy, Air Force and Michigan as teams on his wish list. Of those, a series with Michigan has at least been discussed between the two schools, The Tribune has learned.
When the Cougars announced their independence plans, they also announced that an agreement had been reached to play Notre Dame six times between now and 2020. Holmoe said BYU and Notre Dame officials are still working on the dates. He can't say yet when the first game of the series will be played, or where.
"It will happen, we just don't have the date set," he said.
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BYU's Future Football Opponents
2011: Oregon State, Texas, Utah, Central Florida, Utah State, Hawaii, New Mexico State, La. Tech, Idaho, San Jose State.
2011 Chatter: Two or three opponents need to be added to the 2011 schedule, depending on whether BYU uses an NCAA waiver that allows teams to play 13 games if they travel to Hawaii.
2012: Oregon State, Utah, Utah State, Boise State, Hawaii, Louisiana Tech,
New Mexico State, San Jose State.
2012 Chatter: The Cougars will get another big dose of WAC schools, possibly their last, with at least five on the 2012 slate.
2013: Boise State, Hawaii, Utah, Notre Dame, Texas.
2013 Chatter: Games against Utah and Notre Dame in 2013 haven't been officially contracted yet, but both sides say they will happen.
2014: Texas, Boise State, Utah, Notre Dame, Central Florida.
2014 Chatter: Cougars will play Notre Dame six times between 2013 and 2020, but exact years have not been announced yet. It's assumed the series will begin in 2013.