PROVO — BYU’s status as an independent seemed to get tougher Thursday with the news of the Atlantic Coast Conference’s stance toward the Cougars.
ESPN’s Brett McMurphy reported that the ACC “has decided BYU will not count as a nonleague Power 5 opponent.”
The Southeastern Conference has reportedly made a similar decision.
The ACC has approved an eight-game scheduling format, which includes a mandate that league members face a Power 5 nonconference opponent starting in 2017.
That means ACC teams will have to schedule a game against one of the other big conferences — Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 or SEC — along with Notre Dame, which, like BYU, is independent.
BYU, however, will not be granted that same consideration by the ACC or SEC.
BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe, meanwhile, has warned Cougar fans not to panic.
Earlier this week, Holmoe tweeted: “Folks, I feel like scheduling is proceeding in a positive manner. I suggest you not react to every press release as if it's final.”
Holmoe, of course, is responsible for BYU’s football scheduling, and he’s lined up an impressive list of future opponents.
This season, BYU plays Texas, Virginia (an ACC team) and Cal. Future schedules, through 2025, feature games against Nebraska, Michigan, Arizona, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Virginia, Washington State, Arizona State, Stanford, USC and Notre Dame.
The Cougars have also scheduled a steady diet of opponents from the American Athletic, Mountain West and Sun Belt Conferences.
While ACC and SEC teams could still schedule BYU, there is less of an incentive to do so now.
Of course, there is the larger threat of BYU being left outside of the Power 5 altogether at some point.
BYU associate athletic director Duff Tittle told BYU Radio’s "BYU Sports Nation" program Thursday morning that Holmoe is working hard to address the various issues facing the football program.
“Tom has done a great job since independence of charting our course, keeping us on track, staying abreast of all of the things that are going on because it is a moving target ... and just keeping us in the conversation and scheduling great games.”
Tittle added that no one really knows what the future holds, and BYU is focused on being relevant and scheduling big games.
“I feel like scheduling is moving in the right direction. We’ve got 14 of those schools scheduled over the next seven years that come out of those five conferences," Tittle said. "You never know. It will be interesting to see what happens. But I feel like we’re in a pretty good place. Tom feels pretty comfortable with it. He’s also said publicly that he’s had some conversations with some of these folks and he will continue to have those conversations. This is all pretty new. We can’t really look into the future and know what’s going to happen.
"But so far, throughout these three or four years of independence, from the announcement on, he’s done a great job of providing leadership, understanding what’s going on, keeping his hands on the pulse of things. He’s on numerous committees. He goes to lots of meetings and has great relationships with a lot of people around the country.”
As far as ACC and SEC scheduling goes, Tittle pointed out that the Cougars have played very few ACC and SEC teams.
“Realistically, you’ve got to keep a historic perspective in all of this,” he said. “How many teams have we really played in the ACC and SEC over the last decade or the modern era? Tom has said publicly that we haven’t played a lot of those teams over the years, but he hopes there will be additional opportunities like there has been.”
Tittle also said not to underestimate BYU’s partnership with ESPN.
“One thing we offer when people come to play in Provo, is they are going to play in front of a national television audience. Not everybody brings that to the table. That’s one of the advantages of playing BYU. There’s numerous (advantages), including strength of schedule. We’ll see how this thing plays out. But we’re certainly not pushing the panic button right now. We’re just diligently behind the scenes doing our work.”