The Biggest Obstacle for BYU

Brett RichinsSenior Analyst ISeptember 29, 2010

The biggest obstacle for BYU as it embarks on its path of independence in football next season isn’t scheduling, television contracts, integrating its other sports into the WCC or finding a home for programs like softball and swimming and diving.

The whole plan will live and die by the success BYU can generate on the football field.

Seeing that the master plan calls for playing a national schedule with nationally prominent programs, the key to everything will be for BYU to recruit student athletes that can abide by the school’s honor code and still have the talent to effectively compete with the likes of Texas, Notre Dame, Boise State, West Virginia etc, etc.

Some would look at the task and say that it can’t be done.

Those are probably the same folks that poo-pooed the idea that BYU would ever go independent, or said that BYU could never cut its own TV deal with major network or find a workable solution for its other sports.

It can be done, and must be done in order for the plan to work. The Cougars must get a good share of the top LDS players in the country and then supplement that with non-LDS talent from around the country.

The way to success is to promote the honor code to the world, not just to individual players in the recruiting process.

Now that BYU has complete control over the distribution of its own product, BYU should use its newly found bully pulpit to educate perspective student athletes around the country and the globe about the honor code and the benefits derived from living it. Get the word out to the public and promote what makes BYU different.

I was surprised a few months ago when a sportswriter from a prominent national media outlet, commenting on Harvey Unga’s departure from BYU due to a violation of the honor code, said that before Harvey’s case hit the headlines that he never knew about BYU’s honor code.

After learning about the commitment that BYU student athletes make when they attend the university, he indicated that he was amazed that the Cougar athletic programs are as successful as they are. It really is a great story and something BYU can take great pride in.

If a sportswriter that covers college football for a living is unaware of the honor code, then obviously the university needs to do a better job of getting the word out.

In a world of moral decay and in a society of failing standards, BYU’s message is one that will resonate with millions of people, including those of various religious, social and ethnic backgrounds. Perspective non-LDS student athletes and their parents will respond to the school’s message and standards.

A recent public service announcement produced by BYU for broadcast during games informs viewers about BYU’s ranking as the top “Stone Cold Sober” school by the Princeton Review, a recognition the school has garnered the last 13 straight years.

It’s a step in the right direction, but it needs to go a lot further.

How about a PSA focused on the honor code and its benefits that includes non-LDS students and well known alumni? How about coaching up our friends at ESPN, and getting them involved in the process of educating viewers about what the honor code is and why students choose to live it. After all it’s in ESPN’s best interest to have the Cougar football program firing on all cylinders.

Games broadcast on BYUtv could certainly help put the word out, as could the BYU athletic website How about a prominent spot on the site that spells out the honor code, its history and its benefits? In fact a PSA could refer viewers to the website for more in-depth information.

Their are many things that can be done to take the message to the people. There are plenty of bright and experienced minds that BYU has access to that could help the Cougars create a comprehensive marketing and public relations plan. The key is to explain and promote the benefits of living such high standards.

Imagine families of talented student athletes all over the country wanting to send their kids to BYU because they can live in a positive environment and play football at its highest level.

If you raise the standard, people from all over will rally to it.