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BYU v. Oklahoma, Texas Stadium, 2009
Teams want to play good teams. The Oklahoma Sooners played BYU in the Texas Stadium in 2009. All three elements of what I am talking about came together. A quality team, great exposure and BYU won.
That game is the blueprint for what BYU needs to do.
I don’t mean to be insulting, but how many SEC, Big Ten, Big 12 or Big East teams have called up Utah State, Idaho or Fresno State and begged them to come play them? Now put the shoe on the other foot. How many of the teams in those conferences have gotten a call and been begged for a home-and-home game from other FCS and FBS teams?
Teams want to play good teams in order to build their exposure, brand and aid in recruiting. It is a vicious cycle: To win you need the best players, to get the best players you have to win. And there is one more element to that equation. You have to win against quality teams. Beating Weber State was nice, but ho-hum, who cares. BYU has six ho-hum games on its schedule this year. A ho-hum game is a game against a team that isn't in one of the big five conferences.
Notre Dame recognized that and that is why they have aligned in football with the ACC for a guaranteed five games a year. Beating a team in any of the Automatic Qualifying conferences, even Minnesota, Villanova or Ol' Miss at least puts you in the same league as the teams that also play them every year.
For BYU to be successful, it needs a schedule like the one next year every year. To get that, you need the kind of exposure those teams want. Here is another catch-22. To get the big five conferences to play in your house, you need to beat high quality teams so ESPN will carry your game on TV, which gives you exposure, which makes players want to play for you, which… are you getting it?
Henry Russell “Red” Sanders the UCLA football coach told a group:
"Men, I'll be honest. Winning isn't everything," then following a long pause, "Men, it's the only thing!" The year was 1950.
When asked about the UCLA-USC rivalry he said, "it's not a matter of life and death, it's more important than that!"
It’s time for BYU to get that kind of perspective. Utah obviously has it, winning eight of the last 11 games it has played. BYU needs to realize that exposure comes from winning, and the better teams will beat a path to their door if they are winning. The performance Saturday in Salt Lake was a manifest lack of understanding of those facts.
The players were not prepared with the right offense. The right players were not on the field, and the right plays were not called. That is what beat BYU—not the interceptions, fumbles and penalties.
What beat BYU was a lack of spirit that said, “beating Utah is not a matter of life or death, it is more important than that,” combined with the spirit of Red Sanders, let us remember his words:
“Men, I'll be honest. Winning isn't everything, men, it's the only thing!"
Here is that Russell Sanders quote.