Wednesday, May 18, 2011

BYU football has a mission: Convert the Mormons

Independence is sweet, when you think about it. With a partner like ESPN, BYU's football independence means exposure, freedom, money a new national brand, and so much more.

BYU football will now be broadcast nationwide on the ESPN family of networks, and whatever ESPN doesn't air will be picked up by BYUtv and the tens of millions of homes in its footprint. BYU fans outside the state of Utah are no doubt rejoicing.

But that's the big question. How many BYU fans really live outside the state? Certainly there are a few- I'm thinking particularly about the BYU alumni who move out of state. But too often when pundits, experts and fans talk about BYU's national audience they mention the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its members. It's true that these members, Mormons, belong to the same church that owns BYU, but in many cases that's where the similarities end.

There are a lot of Mormons, the vast majority I would guess, who are completely apathetic toward BYU sports. I'm sure they've all heard about BYU, but how many non-alumni Mormons would consider themselves big BYU fans? My guess would be not many.

BYU needs to change that. Now that we have the freedom to schedule games all year, all over the country, BYU should make a special effort to involve all the members of the church in each area. BYU can make a huge impact on these non-fan Mormons, and they need to reach out to this large, diverse and nation-wide audience.

To do this, BYU can leverage the fireside program, participate in activities with the youth, make a special effort to invite members of the church to games in their areas, etc.

Don't make the mistake of thinking all Mormons will flock to the BYU banner just because they have the church in common.

There's another side to this issue, though, and it's this: non-fan Mormons need to get behind BYU. They need to recognize BYU as "their school." Just as Catholics would support Notre Dame, Mormons need to love them some BYU. If you're one of these "too cool for school" Mormons who hates BYU for some inexplicable reason, it's time to grow up. BYU is your church's school. Get behind the Cougs, because more positive exposure for BYU means more positive exposure for the church. And that's a good thing for everybody.

BYU and Mormons. It's a match made in heaven.