BYU concentrating on winning conference, not potential BCS bid
"The Quest for Perfection."
It's the slogan BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall is using for this season. It graces T-shirts in the school's bookstore and appears on the downloadable wallpaper on the team's Web site.
But it's not what you think.
Perfection would seem the most logical goal for a team that has won a nation's best 10 straight games and returns 11 starters. But Mendenhall isn't using the motto to push his Cougars to that kind of perfection. This quest is about something different altogether.
"It's been taken as an undefeated season," Mendenhall said. "What it really came from was a mission statement here at BYU, which is to aid each individual in your quest for perfection and eternal life."
Still, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints could wind up giving one driving pep talk, because perfection, in the more conventional sense, would mean the Cougars go undefeated and become the third straight mid-major team to earn a BCS bid.
That kind of quest was a topic of conversation among the Cougars -- once. When the team showed up for preseason camp, Mendenhall discussed the team's preseason ranking (17th in the USA Today coaches' poll) and all that talk of them being anointed this year's "it" mid-major. He also asked his players to follow the lead of he and his wife, who have made a pact to stay away from information on the team on the TV, radio, Internet and newspapers.
"All I ask them to do now is go right back to our position mastery, our day-to-day execution and hopefully developing the greatness to be considered there at the end of the season and not at the beginning of the season," Mendenhall said.
If all goes well, the Cougars could follow in the footsteps of Boise State and Hawaii, who have reached BCS games in each of the past two years, and give the MWC that proverbial jackpot the WAC has hit the last two years. The Broncos and Warriors each received more than $4 million for making the Fiesta and Sugar Bowls, respectively. When the amount was added to the rest of the conference's bowl earnings and split among its membership, each WAC school received in excess of $1 million combined over the past two offseasons.
"The exposure the WAC has received has been a tremendous boost in reestablishing the WAC as a credible conference," said WAC commissioner Karl Benson.
Mid-majors have taken full advantage of gaining entry to college football's most lucrative party, but so far only perfection has gotten them past the velvet rope.
In the two seasons since the addition of the fifth BCS game, no mid-major with at least one loss has finished higher than the two-loss Cougars' 17th ranking last year. (Mid-majors must finish in the top 12 of the final BCS rankings to earn an automatic bid.) Boise State was 25th in '07's final rankings with a 10-2 record, while BYU (10-2) was 23rd in '06.
That, says Mendenhall, illustrates a problem.
"I just think it points out a flawed system," he said. "What I would be a proponent of is you take the two top-ranked non-BCS teams and you allow them to play each other in say the Las Vegas bowl, and the winner gets to play in maybe a fifth BCS game. And that way you won't have contracts being broken in terms of scheduling and you won't have the schedule or lack thereof in terms of strength of schedule being such a factor."
Last season, Hawaii played two teams from the Football Championship Series (formerly Division I-AA) and the Warriors' strength of schedule was ranked 119th by one service, while Boise State's schedule came in at 113 in its '06 dash to a BCS berth.
The Warriors' lackluster docket wasn't by design, though. Hawaii wanted to play Michigan, but the Wolverines weren't interested. Also, Michigan State paid $250,000 to get out of a game and USC rejected an offer.