Friday Mailbag: A Rivalry with Notre Dame, Phil Ford’s Mission Decision, and Pete Van Valkenburg: What if …?

Welcome to the Friday Mailbag where once a week I answer your questions and respond to your comments about Brigham Young Cougars football. As a quick reminder, there are three ways to submit a question:

1. Email:
2. Twitter: @BlueCougarFball and use #BCFmailbag
3. Leave a comment at the end of a BLUE COUGAR FOOTBALL article.

On to the mailbag.

RE: Who will Replace Utah as BYU’s New Archrival?

I’d love to see a rivalry develop with Notre Dame.

I think we all would. It sounds nice on paper: two religious and independent schools who have the flexibility to play in November. However, the “you can’t force a rivalry” rule still applies, and developing a rivalry with Notre Dame presents some special challenges.

Notre Dame has several rivals already: Michigan, Michigan State, Stanford, and USC, to say nothing of Purdue, Army, and Navy. The last thing on the mind of Notre Dame and its fan base is to find another rival. BYU is just another game on the schedule for Notre Dame. That doesn’t mean it is impossible.

BYU-Notre Dame can turn into a rivalry, but it requires several events to transpire. First, BYU needs to start winning most of the games the two schools play. Second, a BYU win needs to deprive Notre Dame of something—a winning record, a lucrative bowl invite, an undefeated season. Third, BYU needs to become a perennial top 15 team. In short, BYU has to make the game meaningful. Not until beating BYU becomes more valuable than beating those other rivals will a true rivalry exist.

It is a nice thought, but not something we should expect.


I think it is great that Phil Ford has decided to serve a mission next year. He shouldn’t wait. He can still have a great football career when he returns, and BYU is the best place for return missionaries to play. No one understands how to help a RM return to form.

I agree on all points. It will be exciting to learn where he goes. I wish him the best.

Football can wait. In no way do I see him sacrificing his career by serving a mission now. Several BYU return-missionary linemen have gone on to play in the NFL. However, since he won’t have a redshirt year following his mission, the more Ford does to keep in shape during his mission the faster he will get playing time.

One other minor detail: BYU still needs to offer a scholarship. Assuming he plays well this year and keeps his grades up, I find it hard to believe that Ford won’t get a scholarship offer.


Fleet Pete [Van Valkenburg] had a great year in 1972. I don’t think they had the Doak Walker Award back then, but what if they did? Do you think he could have won the award?

First, you are correct, the Doak Walker Award didn’t start until 1990. Second, I don’t think that, even as the nation’s leading rusher, Van Valkenburg would not have won the Doak Walker.

Being the nation’s leading rusher is great for the resume, but that is a poor indicator as to whether a player will win the Doak Walker Award. Luke Staley, and several other winners, did not lead the nation in rushing.

Looking at the honors that were awarded at that time, Van Valkenburg was not first team All-American and he didn’t get any Heisman Trophy votes. On the contrary, BYU running back Eldon Fortie was first team All-American and finished 10th in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1962 when he rushed for 1,149 yards (more than 200 yards less than Van Valkenburg in 1972). Despite his fantastic play and rushing title, Van Valkenburg didn’t get much respect.

If the Doak Walker Award was around 40 years ago, my guess is Oklahoma running back Greg Pruitt would have won. Pruitt rushed for just 1,024 yards (5.9 yards per carry) and 13 touchdowns. However, he was the runner up for the Heisman Trophy and won the Walter Camp Trophy. Johnny Rodgers from Nebraska won the Heisman in 1972, but he played wide receiver. Clearly, Pruitt was considered the best running back that year.

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