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Thursday, January 27, 2011
TCU, BYU may play at Cowboys Stadium

By Jeff Caplan
ESPNDallas.com

TCU and BYU, now former Mountain West Conference rivals, are negotiating to play a nonconference football game at Cowboys Stadium, possibly during Thanksgiving weekend.

Sources caution that the game -- regardless of date -- has not yet been set. The Horned Frogs have two slots to fill on their 2011 schedule and need a quality nonconference opponent after Texas Tech last week informed TCU that it will not play in Fort Worth as originally scheduled.

BYU, which will compete as an independent starting next season, has 12 games scheduled but can add a 13th thanks to a provision that allows teams playing at Hawaii to add a game. The Cougars have open dates on Oct. 29 and Nov. 26.

The Mountain West Conference has not set its conference schedule and typically does not until March or April to allow its teams flexibility in scheduling nonconference games.

The TCU-BYU game potentially could be played on Fri., Nov. 25 as part of a huge three-day football weekend at Cowboys Stadium, as the NFL's Dallas Cowboys traditionally host a Thanksgiving Day game each season.

A separate source told ESPNDallas.com that Baylor and Texas Tech hope to finalize plans to play at Cowboys Stadium on Sat., Nov. 26. If it happens, it would be the third consecutive Tech-Baylor matchup to be held in North Texas. The teams played each other at Cowboys Stadium in 2009 and at the Cotton Bowl in 2010.

There has been chatter within the Mountain West that TCU's recently moved game to Boise State, which joins the conference this season, could be scheduled as the final regular-season game for the first Saturday in December, setting up a potential conference title game on the day the major conferences hold their championship games.

That could free TCU to schedule BYU during Thanksgiving weekend when the Frogs typically finish their regular season.

The allure for TCU to play BYU is ESPN would likely broadcast the game nationally. TCU is set to play its final season in the MWC, a league that does not have a contract with ESPN, and TCU does not currently have a 2011 game scheduled on the network. BYU, however, has a deal with ESPN upon departing the Mountain West.

ESPN aired TCU's 2010 season-opener at Cowboys Stadium against Oregon State, and TCU and SMU agreed to move their nonconference game last season to a Friday night to play on ESPN.

The irony of a TCU-BYU matchup in the season following BYU's exit from the Mountain West is that TCU coach Gary Patterson flatly said, "No," when asked if he'd consider playing BYU after news leaked of the school's plot to exit the MWC for independence.

"If you're BYU, you better be careful what you wish for," Patterson said in August.

That was four months before TCU announced its own move out of the conference and to the Big East Conference beginning in 2012.

TCU opens the 2011 season at Baylor on Sept. 3, and will play SMU at home on Oct. 1. If the BYU game comes to fruition, TCU will still need one more nonconference opponent to fill out the schedule. Potential opponents that have cropped up are Lamar, Louisiana-Monroe and Texas State, which would be intriguing because the Bobcats are now coached by former TCU, Alabama and Texas A&M coach Dennis Franchione.

BYU also has played at Cowboys Stadium, beating Oklahoma in the 2009 season-opener.

Jeff Caplan covers colleges for ESPNDallas.com.