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Provo • Notre Dame's announcement Wednesday that it will join the Atlantic Coast Conference in all sports except football and hockey and that it has agreed to play five football games a year against ACC schools, beginning in 2014, has potential repercussions on BYU's football scheduling plans.
When it became a football independent two years ago, BYU announced it would play Notre Dame six times between 2012 and 2020. Two of those games, both at Notre Dame, are scheduled Oct. 20 this year and Nov. 23 next year. But the remaining four games, whose dates have not been set, are in question.
Dennis Dodds of CBSsports.com reported Wednesday that Notre Dame will "maybe have to buy out existing contracts to balance its schedule."
Assuming the Irish don't want to give up their longstanding rivalries with the likes of USC, Stanford, Navy, Michigan, Michigan State and others, that leaves little room on their future schedules for schools such as BYU, which has played Notre Dame just six times.
Acting upon a request for answers from The Salt Lake Tribune, BYU associate athletic director for Communications Duff Tittle issued the following statement Wednesday evening:
"Like most universities, BYU continues to monitor the ever-changing landscape of college athletics, including today's announcement by Notre Dame. BYU is pleased with its status as an independent football program."
Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said the school wants to keep its presence on the West Coast, but also hinted that the Irish would like to play outside the states of Indiana and Michigan more often. That may be good news for BYU.
"It is important to us to get out to the West Coast annually, and as everyone close to Notre Dame knows, the tradition of playing Navy is important and has deep roots. Those are probably building blocks," Swarbrick said. "Beyond that, we have to work through it over time."
Utah's Brian Johnson, 25, is the youngest offensive coordinator in college football and will be calling plays in just his third game on Saturday. BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall knows a little bit about what that is like he was promoted to defensive coordinator at Oregon State when he was just 29, becoming the youngest defensive coordinator in Pac-10 history at the time.
"You remain authentic, and you play to your strengths," Mendenhall said. "I am sure [Johnson] has a great relationship with his players. I am sure he motivates them well. I am sure he adds a lot of energy, and I am sure he is cerebral and bright. And as that happens, the experience just is built in along the way, and from what I have seen, he is doing a nice job so far."
Respect for the Aggies
BYU doesn't play Utah State for three more weeks, but already the Cougars are bracing for a big challenge. Cougars linebacker Brandon Ogletree said the Aggies are a program on the rise.
"Don't take this the wrong way, but I wasn't that surprised [that Utah State beat Utah]," he said. "That says more about Utah State than Utah. Their coach [Gary Andersen] has done a really good job. You could argue that they should have won against us last year. They are a good team."
Brother imitating brother
Drew Reilly, a transfer from Colorado State who is sitting out this year due to NCAA transfer rules, is a vital member of BYU's scout team. This week, he's wearing a red jersey and impersonating Utah's No. 9, linebacker Trevor Reilly. He's probably pretty good at it, considering that Trevor Reilly is Drew Reilly's older brother.
Trevor had a monster game against the Cougars last year with five tackles, three tackles for loss, two sacks, three forced fumbles, a pass breakup and a fumble recovery to earn Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week honors.
BYU at Utah
Saturday, 8 p.m.
TV • ESPN2