Destination Provo ... it's not for everybody.
For Boise State football ... it’s a destination of great significance to the program and its fanbase.
The Broncos play at BYU on Saturday afternoon in what, technically, could be their final visit to Provo unless a few loose ends are tightened up.
Boise State and BYU have an original contract to play games through the 2023 season, including 2022 in Boise and 2023 in Provo. The two programs also have an extended contract to play 10 games from 2025 to 2034.
The issue, as we all know: BYU will join the Big 12 for the 2023 season, leaving traditional nonconference partners Boise State, Utah and Utah State waiting for marching orders.
BYU, depending on its scheduling priorities starting in 2023 and beyond, could find itself having to cancel the 2023 game. The contract allows for them to cancel with no penalty if they join a 'BCS conference' which the Big 12 would qualify as.
Here’s hoping the powers-to-be figure out a way to preserve the 2023 game.
The series is scheduled to take a break in 2024.
The new contract that starts in 2025 will certainly be shredded into the dumpster.
Best-case scenario moving forward: Occasional games between two rivals and two of the biggest college football brands in the West.
There are at least two men who are very much in favor of Boise State-BYU continuing the series.
“Yeah, there’s no question,’’ Boise State coach Andy Avalos said. “There have been unbelievable games, a lot of them have come down to the last minute of the game. It's been an unbelievable series, and not just since we've been playing every year, it’s gone back to the early 2000s where it's been that way. ... Regionally, it’s a huge rivalry game.’’
BYU coach Kalane Sitake has similar feelings.
“I really have appreciated the consistency of playing Boise every year, and I appreciate their fanbase and their program, just the way they do things,’’ he said. “I think it is a first-class organization, from the university to the athletics department to the football team. I respect them a bunch and we are looking forward to this matchup.”
Actions are a powerful window into a thinking mind, and Boise State showed last year how important the BYU game is to the program. Boise State wedged BYU into its shortened pandemic schedule that otherwise included only Mountain West games.
Boise State played only two games prior to that meeting.
BYU, with NFL-bound quarterback Zach Wilson, played seven.
The Cougars won 51-17, their most lopsided win in the history of the series.
“I am glad they stepped up and played us last year,” Sitake said. “It was awesome of them to do that. They didn’t have to, you know. I respect them for doing that.”
That’s Sitake being nice — and he’s a very nice man. Sometimes, though, his teams don’t play nice. Junk punches. Shenanigans.
“It’s a physical, physical series,’’ Avalos said.
That’s why Boise State-BYU is a masterpiece of college football beauty — and it must be preserved for very good reasons:
• It’s a popular series for fans because Boise and Provo are six hours apart, and BYU is the closest thing Boise State has to a rival. It’s a rivalry connected by geography, like-minded programs, a strong history of success, and most definitely religion. It’s always one of the most talked about games of the year.
• Attendance numbers prove interest in this series. Two of the top five most attended games in Albertsons Stadium involve BYU — 2012 (36,864) and 2014 (36,752). The four most recent games played in Boise (not including 2000) drew an average of 35,858 fans, while the four games in Provo attracted an average of 61,277 at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
• It’s a series of good teams, which is rare in the West. In 6-of-11 meetings, at least one team was ranked in the Top 25. Last year, both teams opened the game in the Top 25.
• Not only does this series typically involve good teams, it showcases great individual talent. Since the 2012 game and 2013 NFL Draft, there have been 29 Boise State/BYU players selected into the league, including three first-rounders and 24 still on rosters. Three of those players are quarterbacks who have played dramatic roles in the series — Brett Rypien, Wilson and Taysom Hill.
• Games between Boise State/BYU are typically close. Five of the 11 meetings have been decided by a touchdown or less, and nobody has a longer winning streak than three games. Three of the six games played in Boise have been one-point victories for the Broncos. If BYU wins Saturday, as expected, each team will have five wins over the past 10 games.
Bottom line: Boise State-BYU is a rivalry of comebacks, drama, respect and angst. It’s a rivalry for fans, one of those rare-treasure games that spark emotions and passion for everyone involved.
It’s a series that must continue, but certainly won’t continue in the form we know today.
That’s understandable ... and a shame.
Mike Prater is the Idaho Press sports columnist and co-hosts Idaho Sports Talk on KTIK 93.1 FM every Monday-Friday from 3-6 p.m. and Bronco Game Night after every Boise State football game on KTIK and KBOI 670 AM. He can be found on Twitter @MikeFPrater and can be reached at email@example.com.