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BYU books Notre Dame in Las Vegas next year

Updated September 5, 2021 - 5:52 am

The news Saturday that Brigham Young will play Notre Dame at Allegiant Stadium next year was just another building block between the Cougars and Las Vegas.

When the Las Vegas Bowl faced serious questions about its future in 2005, Brigham Young came to its rescue.

The game invited the 6-5 Cougars over 10-1 Mountain West champion Texas Christian because it needed the attendance boost to stay in the NCAA’s bowl-certification good graces — and drew a crowd of 40,053 to Sam Boyd Stadium for its first sellout.

BYU appeared in the next three Las Vegas Bowls, with each game selling out. The attendance of 44,615 in 2006 was the largest to watch a college football game in Nevada history.

Until Saturday night. That is when the Cougars’ game against Arizona at Allegiant Stadium, a 24-16 BYU victory, blew past that figure with an announced crowd of 54,541.

That attendance record likely will fall again in October 2022 when the Cougars play Notre Dame as part of the Shamrock Series.

“We love the city,” BYU coach Kalani Sitake said. “We love that we have a fan base that’s nearby. A lot of people here have connections, whether they’re from the city or have family that’s here. We’ll come here as much as they will have us.”

BYU’s game against Notre Dame next season hasn’t been announced, but a source with knowledge of the discussions confirmed it will take place. The game is expected to be played Oct. 8 or Oct. 29.

The Irish hosted the Cougars in 2012 and 2013 as part of a three-year agreement that this game in Las Vegas completes.

BYU is playing a big part in the growth of neutral-site games at Allegiant Stadium. The Cougars’ presence there Saturday night was a result of their relationship with the Las Vegas Bowl, which in addition to the early four-year run, gave BYU a landing spot in 2015 against Utah, working out a deal with the Mountain West to vacate its spot in the game.

The relationship between BYU and Las Vegas is mutually beneficial. Provo, Utah, where BYU is located, is within driving distance of Southern Nevada, and Las Vegas has a large Mormon population. Both parties know if the Cougars show up, so will plenty of fans.

That includes next season’s game against Notre Dame, where the ticket demand will be high on both sides. Though Arizona brought a respectable number of fans Saturday, the volume of cheers and sea of blue in the stands made it more of a home game for BYU, which accounted for about 80 percent of the crowd.

By the time BYU’s game against the Fighting Irish kicks off, the Cougars could be in the Big 12. They are among four schools reportedly targeted for expansion. Because BYU is an independent in football, that should ease the transition if invited.

BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe did not respond to requests for comment.

“I haven’t even thought about it,” Sitake said Friday of joining the Big 12. “That’s an administrative question.”

Contact reporter Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com. Follow @markanderson65 on Twitter.

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