Monday, October 12, 2009

Lowered Expectations

After dismantling UNLV, BYU is sitting pretty at 5-1 on the year. But the mood around Cougartown has been less than positive. This is despite the fact that the Cougars are on their way to their fourth-straight 10-win season (my fingers are crossed). But fans are acting like we're still in the Crowton years. It was the same as last season when the Cougars went 10-3 (a really good season, right?). But fans ultimately looked upon BYU's 2008 campaign as a failure.

Why is that? Well, I think I know why.

Two words: The Quest

When Bronco came here, he talked endlessly about returning the Cougars to national prominence. I think he's already accomplished that goal. And after two straight
11-2 seasons, he was talking about perfection and busting the BCS. And maybe even (gulp) the national championship.

Prior to the 2008 season, his team adopted the motto: The Quest for Perfection. The program even got fans involved when it made T-shirts with the words: The Quest printed on them.

I'm not just saying this because of how things turned out, but I remember the first time I saw those shirts. I had as high of expectations as anyone did prior to that season. I was at the BYU Bookstore looking for a new BYU T-shirt to wear to home games when I saw those shirts. I immediately got a bad feeling, and I knew that the Cougars and their fans were setting themselves up for a hu
ge disappointment.

And I was right. The TCU loss sucked all the life out of the Cougars and us fans. Coupled with Yootah's own quest for perfection (their 2nd in five years), it was a devastating time to be a Cougar fan.

This year, everyone (myself included) was talking about BYU running the table after the first two games, and possibly playing for the national championship in January. But that all died down fast when the schizophrenic Seminoles came in and blasted the Cougs. Now fans are just depressed again. (PS... I knew the Cougars were going to lose the game when I walked into the stadium and saw dozens and dozens of fans still wearing The Quest T-shirts again. Those things should have been destroyed after the TCU loss in 2008.)

So what's my point? Fans just need to chill out. Lower your expectations a little bit. I know that sounds cynical, but it's made my life a lot easier. That doesn't mean you can't get excited about BYU football. Just back up a little bit and look at the big picture. Bronco's going to talk about busting the BCS and potentially playing for a national championship. What else is he gonna say? But that doesn't mean fans should be disappointed with anything less than the BCS. This isn't Florida or USC. Contending for the MWC championship every year should be the level of expectation. Everything on top of that is gravy.

So fellow Cougar fans, let us unite and celebrate the season the Cougs are having. Recognize that Max Hall is not a Heisman-caliber quarterback. He is the collegiate equivalent of Tony Romo (he does well against inferior opponents in small games and implodes against better teams in big games). But if the Cougars rely on their punishing running game instead of Max's arm so much, they will win 10+ games and have a great shot at winning the MWC.

And also, if you have a The Quest T-shirt... burn it. Burn 'em all. I don't care if it's the only BYU shirt you have. Come up with $5 and buy a new one. The outcome of this season depends on it. Tell your loved ones. Spread the word. We need to rid ourselves of them, because The Quest has become The Curse.


  1. Excellent insight Tyson. I think it is interesting to draw the connection between what you said and what Budd said earlier. Bronco seems upset that BYU fans are not happy right now with the way things are going--perhaps rightfully so. What is interesting though, is that he fails to realize that he is at least partially to blame for our high expectations with the ridiculous "quest for perfection" talk last year.

    I like your suggestion that BYU fans should lower their expectations, but I don't realistically see it happening any time soon. Given the success of Utah over the past five years, BYU fans will not be satisfied until they reach that goal as well. I really can't blame them.

    Lastly, I think that it is worth noting that much of cougar fans' letdown likely stems not merely from the fact that we won't be going to a BCS game, but rather from the knowledge that we will probably never have as good a chance as we did this season to make a national championship run. Even if BYU has a better team in the near future (which I hope they will), it is unlikely that everything will align as well as it did for them this year. That "what might have been" pill is a tough one to swallow. (I know becasue I still think about what might have been had we thrown to Johnny Harline more in the State Quarterfinals against Northridge in highschool.)

    P.S. Do you think that your desire for Cougar fans to lower their expectations stems from an inner hope that if the women cougar fans lower their expectations in this regard they might also lower their expectations in other areas of life and be willing to go on a date with you.

  2. Nice comments Will. Great article. I never liked the Quest for Perfection shirts and always thought they were a mistake . . . or were they? I pose a few questions:

    First, do you think the MWC is good enough for a conference championship to amount to anything? Almost always, I am a believer that a conference championship should be the goal of any team "and that the rest is gravy." But winning a conference championship for the MWC gets us what? An automatic bid into the Vegas Bowl (playing a mediocre Pac-10 team) and a whopping $1M payout?

    Next question, do you think BYU should set the only goal at the beginning of the season as: win every non-conference game? I can't help but wonder if BYU, TCU, and Utah win every non-conference game they play and lose 1-2 games in conference, if that bodes better for BYU than 9-0 in conference and 1-3 out of conference . . .

    Lastly, I met a couple of guys here in Nor Cal (who are die-hard PAC-10 fans) who say BYU had an invitation several years back to join the PAC-10. Is that true or false?

  3. I don't think Cougar fans need to lower their expectations, as much as the need a reality check on their expectations. For a team in a Mid-Major Conference to go undefeated and bust the BCS is rare. Yeah, the Ute's have done it twice which I think is an unbelievable feat and one that the Ute's don't get enough praise and respect for. To expect your team to go undefeated year in, and year out just is an unrealistic goal. What the the BIG THREE in the MWC need to do is win all of their out of conference games and show that they can compete against the Major Conferences like the ACC and are neighbors to west the Pac10. When the BCS re-evaluate their system they will see that the Big East has become a weak conference and take away their automatic bid and make it a Invitational bid. Which will allow teams in Mid-Major Conferences more opportunity to play on a national stage in a BCS game.
    For the Cougars or any team in the MWC to set a goal to play in a BCS game every year the conference will have to position itself as a force to be reckoned with. Let's remember that the conference is only 10 years old and is starting to gain national recognition. Pre-season polls had the Big Three in the MWC all ranked in the top 25. BYU needs to focus on winning the MWC and destroying any team the Pac 10 throws at them. As far as “The Quest for Perfection” is concerned it will go down in history as the worst hyped up bandwagon catch phrase in college football.

  4. You're right on three points Beetle:
    1. It kills fans that Utah has done what BYU has done... TWICE
    2. This was the best chance BYU will have in years to get a legitimate shot at the NC. With their non-conference schedule and with what the Utes did last year, "the stars aligned."
    3. I would like single women everywhere to lower their expectations when it comes to dating. Make life a little easier for me.

    Budd, it sucks that BYU has to settle for the Vegas Bowl if it wins the conference. But that's the current state of the MWC. If they don't like it, they should be doing everything they can to change things. I have a feeling that BYU, Utah, and TCU could basically run things in the MWC. As they go, the conference goes.

    As far as the Pac-10 rumors, I can't say for sure. I've heard those rumors for years. You would think that the Pac-10 would want to beef up its conference by adding BYU and/or Utah while dropping Washington State. But I've heard that in order to be apart of the Pac-10, a university must specialize in some sort of research. Utah would qualify with its medical school, but BYU would not. I could be wrong, but that's what I've heard. I would hope that BYU would jump to accept an invitation to the Pac-10. There's absolutely no reason to stay in the MWC.

  5. I've also heard the research thing. In addition, I've heard that the Pac-10 doesn't want to have the championship game that would come with having 12 teams.

  6. Nice comment Jake about "Quest for Perfection" going down as the worst hyped up bandwagon catch phrase in college football. LOL.

    On a different note, I don't think the PAC-10 would take both BYU and Utah. Although, I do think Utah will get asked to join the PAC-10 in the next five years, and I think they will. What would the process be to extend an invitation to Boise State and Nevada to join the MWC and to give Wyoming the boot? Then the MWC would have 10 teams and be a lot stronger conference in all sports, not just football.

  7. I would just like to throw out a comment for discussion. I personally feel the need to question whether schools like Boise State and Nevada would want to leave the WAC for a conference like the MWC--as things stand now. Right now, Boise State basically is guaranteed to win the WAC every single year and if they can win their non-conference games, they have earned enough respect that they will likely get a BCS bid in the process. If they leave and go to the MWC, they are going to have to compete with BYU, Utah, and TCU every year for a conference championship every year and as a result they are likely have 1 or 2 losses every year. As such, their chances of going to a BCS game decrease dramatically, even though they are in a better conference. I can see a lot of benefits of joining the MWC, but I'm not sure whether they outweigh the potential costs.

    That being said, were the MWC to get the automatic BCS bid that they deserve, I think Boise State would be a lot more willing to join because they could get the bid even with a couple of losses. Ironically, were Boise St. to joint the conference the odds of getting an automatic bid would dramatically increase, so it kind of becomes the chicken and the egg problem.

  8. Good point Beetle. But if that is the case, then shouldn't BYU try to get back in the WAC?

    I do think BSU and Nevada would love to get in the MWC. For a couple of reasons:

    1) The hopes of the MWC eventually having an automatic bid to the BCS.

    2) Much more prestigious conference in the smaller sports like volleyball and track and field.

    3) Because the conference splits the $$ made in bowl games, BSU is more likely to make more $$ in a conference where 6-7 teams go to bowl games each year (with one possibly going to a BCS) than the WAC where 3-4 teams go.

    But you are right, a 13-0 year in the WAC gets a lot more national attention than a 10-3 year in the MWC.