Today’s official announcement of the 2015 BYU football schedule was mostly stuff we already knew, with a little surprise at the end: BYU will play in either the Hawaii Bowl or the Las Vegas Bowl if they become bowl eligible. Whichever bowl BYU does not play in this year will host the Cougars in 2019. Both bowl contracts allow BYU to opt out if they receive a playoff or New York 6 bid.
BYU is no stranger to the Las Vegas Bowl. BYU has a 3-2 record in the bowl from its days in the Mountain West Conference, which sends one of its top teams every year. BYU travels very well to Vegas, and the bowl is probably thrilled at the prospect of bringing BYU in for another post-season event.
My immediate question when hearing the news was whether BYU, if it ended up in the Las Vegas Bowl, would play a MWC or PAC-12 foe (those are the two conferences with ties to the bowl). For obvious reasons, a PAC-12 opponent would be more compelling for BYU fans than a team from the MWC. Tom Holmoe told Spencer Linton and Jarom Jordan today that the matchups for the Vegas and Hawaii bowls would be determined by ESPN based on what matchups would be most compelling.
I tweeted the Las Vegas Bowl and Greg Wrubell about the matchups, and received two different answers:
@SportsBros ESPN owns and operates both bowls; will work with conference partners to create the best matchups.
— Greg Wrubell (@gregwrubell) April 30, 2015
— Las Vegas Bowl (@LasVegasBowl) April 30, 2015
It appears that Wrubell was repeating the “matchups” explanation that Holmoe gave today. But the Vegas Bowl itself seems confident that if BYU were to be in Sin City, it would be pitted against a PAC-12 team. This is purely speculation, but it feels like the Vegas Bowl is leaking a bit of inside information: ESPN wants a BYU/PAC-12 matchup in that game. That’s good news.
Social media is already abuzz with the prospect of BYU and Utah potentially playing in in Las Vegas bowl. It would be a bit of sweet irony if Utah ended up playing BYU in a bowl game in light of Dr. Hill’s reluctance to play BYU anytime other than September.
These bowl contracts are yet another manifestation of the huge dividends BYU’s relationship with ESPN is paying. Holmoe said today that ESPN was the key player in negotiating these bowl games and that they will be the ones to decide on the bowl matchups. Holme also said that he can’t understate how instrumental ESPN was in scheduling the marquee games in this year’s stellar schedule. In short, BYU’s contract with ESPN means much more than just money and TV time.
BYU fans should be excited about these bowl games. Of all challenges independence poses, scheduling meaningful bowl games is perhaps the biggest. BYU has played in a few lack-luster bowls already, but these bowls mark an uptick in BYU’s ability to play quality bowls despite not having the benefit of a conference to negotiate bowl tie-ins. And Vegas and Hawaii are not bad destinations for fans and players to visit at the end of the season.