On September 1st, 2010, BYU took a step in a new direction when it announced it would begin competition as a football independent for the 2011 season.
Along with the independence announcement, BYU also announced an 8-year partnership with ESPN to televise Cougar football on the sports leader’s family of networks.
“BYU is nationally recognized as an outstanding university and for the history and tradition of its premier athletic programs,” said Burke Magnus, ESPN senior vice president, college sports programming. “Once BYU decided to chart an independent course for football, we both recognized it is a good opportunity to build and grow our strong 30-year relationship. With this agreement, college football fans around the country will see the quality and pageantry of BYU as well as the passion and enthusiasm of its supporters.”
One of the most important goals in becoming an independent was the opportunity for more national exposure for the university and its football program. BYU also sought better access for the Cougars’ national fan base and the opportunity to schedule high-profile opponents.
“We’ve long sought broad, nationwide access to our games for our fans and increased visibility among those who may be less familiar with our university and athletic programs,” said BYU President Cecil O. Samuelson. “We’ve also been looking for ways to take better advantage of our own unique broadcasting resources.”
As it was in 2011, every BYU home football game will be televised to a live national audience on the ESPN family of networks or BYUtv. Additionally, BYU fans will be able to view same-day rebroadcasts on BYUtv of every home game and any away game to which ESPN has the rights through conference agreements with the host team.
BYU is the first football program to garner its own exclusive deal with ESPN to broadcast its games. ESPN and ESPN2 are both available in 99.5 million homes, while the 24-hour college sports network ESPNU is distributed to approximately 73 million homes. ESPN also produces college football games that are broadcast on ABC.
Each year, a minimum of three games will be carried on ESPN, ESPN2, or ABC. Additional games will be on ESPNU. At least one game each season will be carried live on BYUtv. In 2011, 11 games were carried on one of the ESPN networks, including five on ESPN, four on ESPN2 and two on ESPNU.
BYUtv is available in more than 60 million North American homes and is growing every month. It’s on the basic tier of both Dish and DirectTV and is carried by more than 500 cable systems. The network has recently constructed its own state-of-the-art production building that will allow it to televise every game in HD.
Competing as an independent will also allow BYU the opportunity to play a unique and challenging schedule. The day BYU announced its plan to move to independence, it announced a six-game deal to play Notre Dame. Throughout the year following the announcement BYU has scheduled games with Ole Miss, TCU and West Virginia, along with home-and-away series against Texas, Georgia Tech, Oregon State, UCF, Hawai'i and in-state rival Utah, who recently joined the expanded Pac-12 Conference.
Postseason play has also been a focus and after competing in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl in 2011 and the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl in 2012, BYU has found a home for the ’13 season if bowl eligible and not selected to a BCS bowl. The Cougars are slated to travel to San Francisco for the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl following the 2013 regular season.
BYU found success in its first year as an independent and the future will be an exciting time for the school, the program and its worldwide audience.