Why BYU is calling game vs. Notre Dame in Vegas a ‘win, win’ for the Cougars
BYU is primed to pull off something that is rarely achieved in today’s business world — it is going to prove that you can have your cake and eat it too
The catch? The Cougars are eating it in Las Vegas — at the expense of Notre Dame.
When the Cougars and Irish kick off at Allegiant Stadium on Oct. 8 (5:30 p.m. MDT, NBC) it will bring an end to a journey that began on the day the Cougars announced their football independence on Sept. 1, 2010.
As part of that announcement, BYU and Notre Dame declared a six-game series beginning with a two-for-one agreement — two games in South Bend and one in Provo.
The Irish won a pair of home games in 2012 and 2013 but never scheduled the return game to LaVell Edwards Stadium. Eventually, the series was whittled down to just one additional game — with the assurance by Notre Dame that it would honor it, but it still didn’t guarantee the Irish would travel to Provo.
In fact, they aren’t. Through nine years of off-and-on discussions, BYU and Notre Dame finally brokered a game in Las Vegas where the Irish control the tickets and the television.
“It’s part of their ‘Shamrock Series,’ so it’s a home game for them,” said BYU deputy athletic director Brian Santiago on BYUtv’s “SportsNation” in the most transparent interview since the game was announced. “They control pretty much everything about the game. For us, behind the scenes, what (BYU athletic director) Tom Holmoe has done to get this game to come to fruition has been incredible.”
So, where is the cake? What does BYU get by yielding to the Irish?
Unlike Tennessee, which paid the Cougars $2 million to buy out next year’s scheduled game in Provo, Notre Dame is not officially buying out the game. Instead, the Irish are paying BYU an undisclosed amount to play in Las Vegas — enough, according to Santiago, that it would offset an actual buyout, and then some.
“Affirmative! It’s actually very beneficial for us to play this game in Las Vegas. Notre Dame has been very generous to us, and we are getting the game,” Santiago said. “In our estimation, which is why I give kudos to Tom, it is a double-benefit for us. It’s financially very viable for us with Notre Dame being very generous, and we are playing the game in a place where we are comfortable playing.”
Tickets for the Oct. 8 showdown go on sale Tuesday through Thursday for Cougar Club members and, if any remain, to the general public on Friday.
“We have a limited number of tickets. They have given us some sections to work with,” Santiago said. “Notre Dame controls the prices, and the pricing is pretty aggressive. Tickets in the lower sections are between $400 and $500.”
To put that in a Las Vegas perspective, the cost of a second-row seat at the Bellagio’s “O” by Cirque du Soleil is about the same as buying a ticket on the last row of the upper deck for BYU-Notre Dame ($195).
“We are putting a limit on the number of tickets each person can buy so we can get as many as possible in the stadium,” Santiago said. “It’s incredible to be playing Notre Dame on one of the biggest stages.”
High expectations await both football programs as players prepare to report to fall camp in two weeks. Both expect to be in next month’s preseason AP top 25, with the Irish projected to be somewhere in the top 10.
BYU has played some big games in off-campus venues, including the 1979 win against No. 14 Texas A&M played at Rice Stadium in Houston, and the 2009 victory against No. 3 Oklahoma at Cowboys Stadium. Last year, the Cougars defeated Arizona at Allegiant Stadium in front of 54,000 (mostly BYU fans). But those games would pale in comparison to a top-25 prime-time pairing against Notre Dame in Vegas.
It’s a game BYU could not pass up for a buyout check, especially when a bigger check and an even bigger opportunity is coming to headline the Cougars’ final year as an independent before joining the Big 12.
No doubt, fans would have loved to have seen the Irish in Provo or, at the least, had more access to tickets in Las Vegas. There is also doubt that Notre Dame was ever going to come to BYU.
“I think (the game) was headed in the direction, with the change going on in college athletics, that we play the game now in Las Vegas or not get a game,” Santiago said. “The best option was, through years of negotiations, to play the game in Vegas. Certainly, we have shown unbelievably in Vegas.”
For BYU, you can have your cake and eat it too, if you don’t mind eating it in Las Vegas. But as for hitting a jackpot on Oct. 8 — that’s up to the Cougars, who will take the field in what could be the biggest regular-season game away from Provo in school history.
Dave McCann is a contributor to the Deseret News and is the studio host for “After Further Review,” co-host for “Countdown to Kickoff” and the “Postgame Show,” and play-by-play announcer for BYUtv.