BYU AD Tom Holmoe Discusses What’s Next In Big 12 Era

Jul 1, 2023, 6:32 PM | Updated: 6:34 pm

BYU Big 12, Tom Holmoe...

BYU AD Tom Holmoe answered questions from the media on Big 12 Day. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

(Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

PROVO, Utah – BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe addressed a variety of topics with the media on the school’s Big 12 day.

Holmoe acknowledged it’s been a “wild and wooly couple of months” preparing BYU’s athletic department for the Big 12.

He spoke for around 22 minutes. Here are some of the highlights.

On what the last 24 hours have been like

“It feels good. I’m a BYU alum like I’m a football player. So, many times, I wear the same hat as them. I’m an AD at day and an alum at night. So it’s something I’ve wanted for a long, long time. [The Big 12 is] something I’ve talked to the players about and the alum players. Just Cougar Nation, wherever we are, it comes up a lot. So I know the desire and need and it’s talked about a lot. I’m super excited for the fans. … A couple of years ago, we played football games and basketball games and other games with no fans. They were competitive and we battled and they counted, but it wasn’t the same.

“So during those times, it really kind of landed home for me that we need those fans. You never really seen that experience before, like you’d felt there. So, at this time, I’m super appreciative to the fans because they made it possible. Cougar Nation on the road, BYU fans that come out for our games in all sports. This is a tribute to them. Of course, it starts with the student-athletes and the coaches and the teams putting together great moments over extended periods of time, with fairly good stability. And that equals this today.

“…I think it’s kind of like a family reunion celebration and was like, ‘Hey, this is what we’ve been fighting for.’ That’s what we’ve wanted. But then, like tonight, that book will close, or I’ll turn the page on that chapter because we’ve got a lot of work to do. We’ve been in preparation for a year and a half. Whether we’re preparing the right way, we’ll soon find out. But I know there’s so much work ahead. We’re up for that, we’re ready to go and we’re where we want to be.”

What’s next for the athletic department away from the playing fields?

“I think it’s kind of a continuation of where we’ve been. During the years of independence, where there wasn’t really a real pathway to being in a P5 conference or autonomy five conference, we still were moving towards that. That’s always been the goal. It’s always been the dream. So we, structurally and strategically, have made a lot of changes that we wouldn’t comment on necessarily. You might not even ask about that. That’s been the common goal.

“All of our coaches, we have monthly coaches meetings where we all get together. I’ve always said that, for me, it’s not so much about the money that you might get. That’s what everybody asks. ‘What’s it like?’ I want our student-athletes to be able to play against the best competition in the country year in and year out. There were certain teams that just wouldn’t play us. It wasn’t so much that they feared us, or it was just that it didn’t fit into their schedule. So now, when you play in a conference that’s an autonomy five conference you better be careful what you wish for it might come true. This is what happens now is week after week, game after game, match after match, meet after meet, we get really good competition. So it’s our best against your best. That’s really what I’m looking forward to the most.”

Priorities for the BYU athletic department now you are in the Big 12

“I think transitioning. You say, ‘What’s that mean?’ I think that’s the overall umbrella is that we have tried to strengthen ourselves through the time as an Independent and in the West Coast Conference. And I think some of our teams have gotten stronger. I think they’re really prepared. Some of our teams have been a little bit stalled.

“We’re working on reasons why that’s happened and how we can get better. One of the things that I’m kind of working on is we have a lot of units in this department. I spent a lot of time on when I was an early AD here at BYU in my early days. Where I had my hands on a lot of things, it took me a while to figure out that wasn’t the smartest thing. They know better than me how to do marketing. Look outside. In the last five years or so, I’ve spent way more time with the coaches and the players. I think that would be what I’m going to do.

“Our athletic department has been challenged in every unit to just be able to create. This is a time in college athletics where, you know, it’s not normal. There are so many new features and creativity that came around during COVID, not just in athletics but in every field. People took off and made great things happen with themselves personally, individually, as their business, or whatever it might have been. If you can do it when there’s a pandemic, you know, we learned something from that. We can be better. So I’m asking for creativity in every area. And so there’s no better person right now in college athletics than the Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark. No one is more creative and no one thinks outside the box more. No one has delivered or executed better. When I say that, Big 12’s played games, but we haven’t been in there as these 14 teams right now, 12 after this next year. I think that’s rubbed off on me to say, ‘Hey, if our conference, the Big 12, can be ahead of the game, let’s try to figure out ways that we can do that.’ Without changing.

“If y’all been around here for a little bit, we’re going to look the same in many regards. We are who we are but we’ll be the same but different.”

Houston’s AD said he wants his athletic department budget to be around $100 million. Do you have a number in mind that you want?

“No, I don’t. I know [Houston AD] Chris Pezman very well. I think I can see maybe why he says that. There are certain things that he’s looking to do. Each one of us that’s coming in has different strengths. I think all four of the schools are going to come in and bring strengths that the others don’t have. In fact, we each have weaknesses that the Big 12 will try to exploit. But with Houston, I’m not gonna get specific, but they have some campaigns and some things that are super important for them. Ours are different.

“But I think that I’ve never really had a number. I don’t think the number is important. I think what we want to accomplish –the goal–, you have to be able to hit that. Sometimes in order to be able to get to a point, it costs money. And so, do we have numbers and targets and projections? Yeah. We are a private school, so that’s a good thing. But we do not have a number we’re looking to shoot for. It costs money to compete with these dogs.”

Legacy members in the Big 12 and even newcomers have put out renderings on new football facilities. What’s on the task list for BYU on the facilities front?

“There’s a lot of things that are important to us. We have excellent venues. But in this day and age, in college athletics, you can see, it’s like keeping up with the Joneses. We won’t do that at BYU. It’s just not the style and it’s not the manner in which we go about our business. If you look at the Marriott Center, that was built in 1971. We have people come in here and think that was built, you know, five or 10 years ago because they’ve done such a great job from that time keeping it up. It’s a great venue.

“The football stadium, we have a huge advantage; it’s a great place to play. But that’s a stadium that needs some work.

“Olympic facilities, we have some plans where we will take after those and get started soon. But it’s just like with what we want to do when we could accomplish it for the purposes that we want. Some of those schools are a little bit further behind. And it’s exciting for me to know that they’re in the game right now fast. So that’ll keep me awake. … I’m sure the coaches that play in those new venues will say, ‘Hey, have you seen Cincinnati, Houston, and UCF’s new facility?’ That’s alright.”

Are you having conversations with Salt Lake, Board of Trustees in regard to the needs of your athletic department heading into the Big 12?

“We’ve had conversations with President [C. Shane] Reese and President [Kevin J.] Worthen before President Reese for a year and a half. And those conversations are weekly, if not daily. The Commissioner of Education, Clark Gilbert, is very much involved with our university and the athletic department and its counsel, help assistance resources. So I feel like we’re closer than that.

“On a day-to-day basis, you know, there’s a lot of other important things in the Church that take priority over athletics. but we always have felt and always will feel their support. That’s never been a question for us.”

Do you want BYU to take part in Big 12 Mexico?

“Yeah. I mean, I was the first one to raise my hand. OK, we’ll go there, we’ll be there. I think it fits right into our mission and the goals that we have is to, you know, be able to get access and exposure. Those are two key pillars that we’ve focused on in Independence. Those aren’t going to change in the Big 12. It just changes a little bit more, but they’re still the same.

“So, like now, because you have teams from Texas, there’s a lot of Hispanic people in the state of Florida around Orlando. And you know, then you have the Church. I’m super bullish on certain promotions and programs that will highlight our opportunity. It’s not about traveling and getting international, but just certain markets for strategic reasons and to get exposure and get to the people.”

Brett Yormark has said he wants 14 teams in the conference. How big of a conversation is realignment among Big 12 ADs right now?

“Well, if you’ve read what Brett Yormark has said publicly, then you can only imagine what he’s saying privately. So I think that there’s no question about it. That is one of the key elements of moving forward with conferences. There is so many changes right now as looking through a couple of schools. I didn’t realize that they changed conferences. This isn’t P5.

“When you see the impact that UCLA, USC and Texas and Oklahoma have on the total landscape of college athletics. The domino effect is amazing. So you have to be paying attention to what we call membership. So there’s a ton of discussions about that.

“I think one of the things that Brett does very well is that he handles a lot of that but keeps us focused on the Big 12. We have to be great at what we do and not get distracted by all the what-ifs or possibilities, but I feel at least that he brings us the perfect amount of information so that we’re not distracted. But we get a lot.”

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow Mitch’s coverage of BYU in the Big 12 Conference on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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BYU AD Tom Holmoe Discusses What’s Next In Big 12 Era