Would you send your junior high football team to play a high school squad? Of course not! They'd get whacked. Did you think it was fair that busloads of 12-year-olds got whiffed by 14-year-old pitcher Danny Almonte in the Little League World Series? Hell, no!
Then why aren't you writing your congressman about Brigham Young's undefeated football team? Why isn't anybody's underwear in a wad over the fact that BYU, 9-0 and ranked ninth in the country, fields a team that is, by and large, a special-ops force crushing webelos?
Fifty-two players on the Cougars' 106-man roster—11 of 22 starters—have spent two years on a Mormon mission. That means Brigham Young is starting guys who look like the Skipper compared with everybody else's Gilligan. Hell, 30 guys on the team are married! One tight end who was on last year's team had five kids!
The Cougars have 21 players age 24 and older, including six 25 and older. They have 13 starters who are at least 23, an age when most college players have already graduated and are selling life insurance. By the end of next season they'll have seven 25-year-old seniors and two who'll be 26. They've got three 23-year-old freshmen! Makes it kind of hard to haze them. All right, freshmen! Make your wife and kids breakfast!
No wonder BYU leads the nation in scoring offense, with its average score being 50-26. Who's going to make a better player: a 22-year-old married sophomore with twins or a 20-year-old single sophomore trying to make it with twins? "I look in their locker room and see guys with receding hairlines," says Wyoming coach Vic Koenning, whose Cowboys are scheduled to be clobbered by the Cougars this Saturday. "I look out and see a lot of my guys still wearing their high school letter jacket."
Brigham Old signs its recruits at 17 or 18, just as everybody else does. Then most of the signees take a redshirt year. Now they're 18 or 19. Then comes the two-year mission to parts near and far. From ages 19 to 21 the average male body blows up like Hans and Franz. When the BYU kids return to school, they hit the weight room, the training table and the roster—as freshmen. That means by the time they're seniors, they're mature, disciplined and 24 to 25, or six years older than many NBA rookies.
Put it this way: On a routine Brigham Young play, quarterback Brandon Doman (25 next month) drops back behind guard Aaron McCubbins (26) and zips a spiral to wide receiver Andrew Ord (24). Meanwhile, on a given Dallas Cowboys play, quarterback Clint Stoerner (23) drops back behind guard Kelvin Garmon (25) and zips a spiral to wide receiver Ken-Yon Rambo (23).
Of course, the Cougars aren't nearly as much fun on the road as the Cowboys. Just a bunch of guys sitting around in their rooms, reading The Wall Street Journal and picking UNLV players out of their teeth.
If you root for a school that doesn't happen to have freshmen who drive minivans with baby seats, playing these guys can give you a rash. The Cougars have won 19 conference championships in the last 27 years. A BYU game is kind of like men playing against boys. Actually, that's exactly what it is.
It's not only Brigham Young. Returning missionaries play for other teams, too. And it's not only missionaries. It was just as unfair that 28-year-old Chris Weinke, who accepted a Florida State football scholarship in 1990 but then spent six seasons in the Toronto Blue Jays' farm system, got to whip up on 19-year-old cornerbacks last season on his way to winning the Heisman Trophy. Weinke shouldn't have won the award last year any more than Brett Favre should win it this year.