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AD: BYU Was Close to Big 12 Bid, Still in 'Good Spot'

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Copyright 2017 The Salt Lake Tribune
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The Salt Lake Tribune

 

Answering questions from local reporters for the first time since the Big 12 Conference chose not to expand last fall, BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe said Wednesday that he's not bitter or resentful about how the process unfolded.

"It was a great experience for us," he said.

Holmoe, who has been BYU's athletic director since 2005, said he was "disappointed and frustrated for two or three days" after the Oct. 17, 2016 "non-announcement" and then moved on. He said BYU is still in a "good spot to be in" as a football independent and a member of the West Coast Conference in most of its other sports.

BYU officials believe Big 12 expansion "was really close" to happening, Holmoe said. "And we thought we had a really good chance."

Holmoe acknowledged there was considerable pushback from LGBTQ groups concerned with language in BYU's Honor Code about homosexual behavior, but said he wasn't surprised because sports plays such a prominent role in society and the process became so public.

He said BYU learned a lot about itself through the process, which he believed was good for the school in general, and helped prompt some "positive" changes."

In a wide-ranging Q & A session at the school's new Marriott Center Basketball Annex practice facility, Holmoe talked for 45 minutes and answered more than 35 questions.

He commended the job that football coach Kalani Sitake did in his first season last fall, saying the new coach "brought a spark of life" to the program and made it more inclusive for former players and some disenfranchised fans.

He also praised the job that BYU basketball coach Dave Rose is doing, saying the coach is "hungry, hungry," and reinvigorated.

"I am after Saturday night," he said when asked if he was happy with the state of the men's basketball program, alluding to the 79-71 upset of No. 1 Gonzaga in Spokane. "I feel good about the present and the future."

BYU is in the seventh year of an eight-year agreement with ESPN to televise the Cougars' home football games, and Holmoe called that relationship strong and beneficial for both sides. He said it is probably about time to start talking again about a contract extension with ESPN.

"I think we grow together," he said, when asked whether he's concerned by ESPN's recent cutbacks.

Holmoe said BYU does not have a bowl agreement in place for the 2017 season, but is working with ESPN with the belief that the network, which owns multiple bowls, will find a place for the Cougars if they get bowl eligible.

That said, Holmoe said ESPN didn't advocate for BYU when the Big 12 was considering expansion, and wasn't expected to.

"I don't think it is right for them to advocate for us," he said.

Regarding the possibility that BYU and Utah could meet in a basketball game in the NIT this spring, after the University of Utah bought its way out of a contracted game last December, Holmoe was noncommittal.

Asked about the importance of beating Utah in football, something BYU hasn't done in the past six meetings, Holmoe said: "It's very important. … Our kids cry when we lose to Utah. Some adults, too."

The AD acknowledged the growing financial disparity between Power 5 schools and schools such as BYU. However, he said BYU's major donors have "stepped up big-time" to close that gap in the last six months.

Notre Dame still owes BYU a football game in Provo after the Cougars visited South Bend, Ind., in 2012 and 2013, but Holmoe said is is looking more and more like that won't happen. If it doesn't, BYU will receive a "big payday" and move on, he said.

Holmoe brushed off suggestions that BYU might some day drop its athletic programs as BYU-Hawaii will do after this school year and the LDS Church-owned school in Idaho formerly known as Ricks College did years ago.

The schools are "way different" in terms of their expectations for their athletic programs, he said.

Holmoe said BYU "has some plans" to honor legendary football coach LaVell Edwards, who died in December, during the upcoming football season, but did not provide details. There are no plans in place to expand LaVell Edwards Stadium, but making home games "an event" and a better experience for fans are always a big topic.

"The big thing is hospitality, not seats," he said.

Finally, Holmoe said he has no idea what BYU plans to do with the Provo High property it purchased last year, and hasn't heard that it has anything to do with athletics.

"There were pressures" to build the Marriott Center Annex and "keep up with the Joneses," he acknowledged, and said more projects are in the works to enhance BYU's athletic standing and help with recruiting.

For instance, as soon as the baseball season is over, BYU will install an artificial surface at Larry Miller Field.

drew@sltrib.com

Twitter: @drewjay

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March 2, 2017
 
 
 

 

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