With BYU going independent, young LDS football players from around the country will once again be able to see their church school's team being broadcast live from LaVell Edwards Stadium through ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ABC, BYUtv and, with the six-game series against Notre Dame, possibly NBC as well.
"Any home game from LaVell Edwards Stadium will be on our platform," said ESPN's vice president of programming Dave Brown on Wednesday. "Any neutral-site game that we do, whether the road team or the home team, is going to be on ESPN or ESPN2 or ABC …
"To obviously pay the bills, you're looking at six or seven home games a year from LaVell Edwards Stadium, and all of those games will be on our family of networks that is ABC, ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPNU. One will be left for BYUtv every year. That's an important part. I wanted them all, but no, we have to take care of BYUtv. They will do one game a year and I think it's great. It's important for us to work with BYUtv because they are such an important part of the BYU mission."
BYU has had a long tradition with ESPN that covered some of the greatest Cougar games over the years. For example, BYU beat No. 3 Pitt at the beginning of the 1984 national championship season in what was ESPN's first live college football telecast ever.
"We had a lot of exciting games," said LaVell Edwards. "We started throwing the football before anybody else did, and so that right away created a lot of excitement. During that period of time during those early years, we had started with Gary Sheide, then Gifford [Neilson], then Marc Wilson and [Jim] McMahon and then Steve Young. All four of those guys [after Sheide] are in the Football Hall of Fame, and I don't know of any school has ever had that. Well anyway, during that time ESPN, with all of these exciting games, ESPN had a few of them. We had a lot of exciting finishes and ESPN was a new company and we were kind of the new kids on the block and we just kind of grew up together. Then it was just jerked out from under us when they created The Mtn. or what ever they call it."
It wasn't just the broadcasts that BYU benefitted from, but the rebroadcasts as well.
"I think the one point that was passed over really quickly was as soon as the ESPN game was over we could rebroadcast the game on channel 11 or whatever channel they have," said Edwards. "I think that was a great thing we had going for us for quite a while."
With the MWC's network, people from around the country had difficulty being able to see BYU football games.
"Well, our goal is to simply find the most exposure for BYU football as we possibly can," Brown said. "That's part of the partnership. And so whether it comes from carrying the games, promoting the games and obviously producing the games with a first-class production, we put it out there and provide BYU with the best possible platforms of exposure we can and then they take it from there. Obviously their recruiting and all the success they've had speaks for itself."
The excitement of BYU's new level of exposure can be felt in the hearts of all Cougar fans all across the nation, and even forced a crack of a smile on the face of LaVell Edwards.
"Obviously there is a good feeling about the program and what's happening tonight," Edwards said. "I particularly like what Bronco's doing by involving the past and building on the tradition. I just think it's exciting to see that."
Edwards also noted that BYU's independent status and its tie-in with ESPN could help recruiting.
Beyond simply broadcasting Cougar games, the partnership with ESPN will also allow BYU to promote the unique identity, values and tradition of Cougar football.
"We will give BYU four institutional announcements every football game that's mandated by the NCAA policy," said Brown. "Obviously BYU is going to be able to use those institutional announcements as they see fit in every telecast, and we've done features before that highlight specific or unique aspects about BYU before. We did one on Coleby Clawson last year for [College] GameDay, and so those opportunities now that we're working closer just to identify great student athlete stories now that we are working more closely with [Associate Athletic Director] Duff [Tittle], [Senior Associate Athletics Director] Michael [Santiago] and Bronco Mendenhall. They're going to bring these ideas to our attention more often and we'll be able to cover them as we see fit, so I think that is probably the bigger benefits there and one that we'll look forward to working with them on."