Tom Holmoe Talks NIL, Football Scheduling, And BYU’s Future In The Big 12
IRVING, Texas – From the Mountain West to football independence to now a member of the Big 12 Conference, Tom Holmoe has seen it all as the athletic director at his alma mater. No one could have imagined a lot of it when he took over BYU’s top athletic post in 2005.
It has been a wild ride.
But the work is only beginning for Holmoe as he gears up for his athletic department to join a Big 12 Conference that will include Texas and Oklahoma — as of now — for the first two years after BYU joins on July 1, 2023.
Holmoe took his seat at the Big 12 meetings over the past two days before hustling out of the Four Seasons to catch a flight out of DFW to return to Provo Thursday afternoon.
But before he returned to Provo, the 2021 Athletic Director of the Year caught up with KSL Sports to discuss topics ranging from the tenor of these Big 12 gatherings to an update on the 2023 non-conference football schedule.
How are you enjoying the experience of being a member of the Big 12 Spring Meetings?
I’m fully enjoying being here in Texas for the spring meetings. It’s interesting, Mitch. You get in a situation where you really don’t want to get too far ahead of yourself because we have this 2022 season where we’re still an Independent in football with a tough football schedule ahead of us. And then we have the WCC and all of the other sports and all the other leagues that we’re affiliated with. But we feel like we have to have one foot in. There are so many that we have to start preparing for this next year. It’s a year where we’re kind of one foot in and one foot out. That’s a tough thing to be in because we have to focus on this next year athletically to make sure that we do everything we can in preparation for the next year, 2023 when we enter the Big 12.
Bob Bowlsby noted that these meetings have a little bit of a weird vibe because there are members like yourself that aren’t in yet until July 1, 2023. Then there are outgoing members in Texas and Oklahoma. So what’s the vibe, the tenor of these meetings with such a unique membership situation?
I feel that the meetings have been very professional. I know all of the ADs and those AD meetings are fun. There are some things that come up that you could feel a little bit of, ‘how’s this gonna go?’ But I think everybody is trying to get along, and everyone’s just really trying to do what’s best for their school. For the teams that are outgoing and for the teams that are incoming, we realize that for the time that we’re together, in 2023, or however long that is that we really need to be collaborative. We need to be good partners. And we need to be able to be strong.
Oklahoma and Texas are looking in the same direction as we are by going to a new conference, into the SEC. But I’m sure at their time; they still have to focus on the games at hand. If you’re not paying attention to what’s right in front of you, you’re going to trip and fall. So we can’t have our eyes too far down the road. I think Texas and Oklahoma have been very respectful. They realize that they still have to be competing and they better pay attention to all the teams in the league that year in 2023.
Have the existing members in the Big 12 allowed for the voices of yours, UCF, Cincinnati, and Houston to chime in on these meetings? Or is it more of a sit back [approach] because you’re the new guys here? How’s that working?
Well, I think there’s a degree of respect that we need to show. That’s the way I feel coming into the conference. I don’t know a lot about the Big 12, I know a lot about sports and individual competition and such. But I think that there’ll be a time period where you want to learn the ropes and learn the traditions and mores of the league and kind of get your feet wet before you jump all the way into the pool.
I opened my mouth once the other day — wasn’t intending to — and said something that probably, you know, just got a little snicker. And I’m like, ‘OK, I’m learning. Give me a pass.’ So I think the new ADs are probably a little bit more quiet in these rounds than we will be when we come in full time.
What are the hot topics discussed in these meetings? I’m sure some are confidential, but what about NIL and the Transfer Portal? Are those items being discussed?
Certainly, I think that the national topics of discussion that are very controversial now, it doesn’t matter what conference you’re in, whether you’re in a P5 or Group of 5, or D1, or whatever it might be. Those are topics of discussion that have to be figured out someway, somehow. We don’t have answers for that right now to try and formulate possible solutions. But then you have the business at hand of the Big 12. Those are not issues that are national issues. Those are the things that we’re going to do with scheduling, branding, and important things like that, more for the conference. So most of the time has been spent on that.
Are TV media rights and their future possibilities in this new Big 12 a talking point in the meetings?
Certainly, I think putting the new four teams in there was a dream and a vision from the Big 12’s Board [of Directors], the presidents, the athletic directors, and the conference office when they made that decision to add the four teams. There was a plan, and we’re trying to build that plan and have it be a strong plan. So certainly, there’s a ton of focus. There has to be a vision. There are things that we’re looking to the future that hasn’t happened. We hope they do. Those are the things we’re planning for right now.
Do you get a sense from the eight Big 12 members when you and the other members join that there’s an excitement for the future? Or is it still bitter feelings towards Texas and Oklahoma leaving?
I think there’s a great deal of camaraderie for the eight that stayed and the four that are coming in. This is our future. And look, we’re on the counter side of that in the WCC. I’ll be going to West Coast Conference meetings next week in San Diego. We have an incredible amount of respect for our commissioner Gloria Nevarez, and those athletic directors, SWAs, FARs, and presidents of those schools. They’ve done us really well for the last 11 years. So we want to finish up really strong in the WCC. We’ll go into those meetings laughing and having good feelings. I feel that is how it’s been here. I don’t think there are any hard feelings. I think it’s a matter of business and taking care of what you need to take care of, but there has to be a going forward. The conferences have to be strong in their beliefs and united in their beliefs.
Then I believe that for the national sake of the game of the sports, there has to be better collaboration between the conferences. You see everybody’s standing on their own hill, trying to plant their flag, a conference flag. But in the future, we’ve got to be talking more amongst the conferences to be able to overcome some of these very difficult trials that we’re going through right now.
We talk about NIL. I think there are some really, really good things about it. There are some things that are extraordinarily difficult for the games. You talk about the transfer portal; it’s a great opportunity for some young men and women to compete at another school that makes it better for them. But there are still some incredible difficulties. So, as a unit, however, we’re going to define that unit with the transformation committee in the NCAA. We’ve got to be thinking a little bit more globally than locally. And that’s a hard thing to do for athletic directors. You want to focus your attention on what you’ve got at your own school. But you have to have a presence on that global network where we’re doing this for the good of the whole. Not only for what we have now but for the future of athletics and collegiate.
Commissioner Bowlsby mentioned after day one of the meetings that Big 12 football was a big talking point among the ADs. Such as scheduling and divisions. What’s the latest for what the league will look like schedule-wise when BYU joins?
There are still talks going on. We’ve tried to look at both the opportunity to be no divisions and also to look at divisions. Because there’s still some legislation coming, you’re looking at and seeing what other people are doing. It’s a little unique when you look at the Big 12 right now… We’re given a lot of different applications. So there’ll be multiple ways and then in the near future, we’ll settle in on what we feel is best for the conference.
How much help, if any, has the conference provided for 2023 with your non-conference schedule? There’s an opening there with two games currently scheduled in 2023.
Oh, we have that settled in now. We’re just trying to make sure that we have all the i’s dotted and the t’s crossed, and we will be settled pretty soon on that.
So your 2023 non-conference schedule isn’t a worry on your radar right now?
One year from now, it will be go-time for BYU in the Big 12. I know you’ve wanted to ‘level up’ BYU athletics going into this new league. What’s the excitement and workload you and your team have moving forward?
I just feel energetic. It’s going to take a ton of energy. As I talk to fans, boosters, sponsors, athletes, students, alums, and Cougar Nation as a whole the key thing is energy. Everybody has to bring it. And I’ve talked about everyone leveling up; me, our managers, our faculty, alums from the past, new students coming in as freshmen, everybody’s got to bring the energy because this level of play will be way more intense. It’ll be way more passionate — not to take away from what we’ve done in the past — but it will be a week in and week out at a standard that will be different than most people in Provo are used to.
Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.
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