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DICKSON: Wide eyed and excited, BYU accepts Big 12 invitation

By Darnell Dickson - | Sep 10, 2021

Jaren Wilkey/BYU

(From left to right): Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby, BYU Director of Athletics Tom Holmoe and BYU President Kevin J. Worthen address questions during a press conference at the BYU Broadcasting Building in Provo on Friday, Sept, 10, 2021. (BYU Courtesy Photo)

Tom Holmoe’s eyeballs wouldn’t lie.

It’s a common occurrence on social media: Something big is breaking in BYU Athletics – a scheduling announcement or a top-ranked recruit is signing, for instance – and someone posts a pair of surprised eyeballs.

Those eyeballs draw a lot of attention. They say, “Get ready. Things are about to get real.”

BYU’s Director of Athletics joined in the fun on Friday, posting those signature eyeballs for something I thought I’d never see – a local sports moment big enough to upstage BYU-Utah football rivalry week.

Cougar fans were still probably a little nervous until the actual announcement was released because the rumors saying this was a done deal seemed too good to be true: BYU has been accepted as a member of the Big 12 Conference in all sports beginning in the 2023-24 athletic year.

Studio C in the BYU Broadcasting Building in Provo was filled with local media, school officials and coaches and former players on Friday for the announcement. Former Cougar legend Danny Ainge was in the house, as was Utah Jazz owner and BYU supporter Ryan Smith.

It’s a huge, huge day for Cougar athletics and its supporters.

Before moving on, BYU will be playing another couple of seasons in the West Coast Conference and it’s been a terrific association. The Cougars Olympic sports needed a landing place and the WCC has been nearly perfect. Class people, class programs.

Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby mentioned in his remarks that BYU coming to the league is a good marriage. A few years ago, skeptics might have associated that statement as a dig at the church’s long-ago stance on plural marriage. But it appears that BYU has changed the perception of this funny little school in the Wasatch Mountains.

That includes how the LGBT community views the school. In 2016, special interest groups banged the drum and threatened to boycott Big 12 athletics. Five years later, after a ton of hard work by BYU and the athletic department, there is very little negativity coming from anywhere.

BYU President Kevin J. Worthen said this move to the Big 12 couldn’t have been made without Holmoe, but Senior Associate Athletic Director Liz Darger also deserves a load of credit for her hard work to create common ground with a lot of former BYU antagonists.

Here’s an observation: BYU’s logo is classic. It looks even better next to the Big 12 logo.

Over a decade ago, BYU made a bold and risky move leaving the Mountain West Conference for independence. The association with the Big 12 isn’t without risk, either. What will happen with the TV contracts? Will the Big 12 continue to have access to the football playoffs? Can the Big 12 exist beyond 2025?

On Friday, the feeling of optimism overwhelmed any of that concern.

Holmoe was bright and energetic when addressing questions from the media at the news conference. When a reporter asked Worthen a question about Holmoe’s legacy one of America’s most loved AD’s lowered his head and stared at his feet.

Holmoe doesn’t like attention. He only holds a couple of news conferences a year. He isn’t in this for the adulation. He said, “Congrats, Cougar Nation. It’s been a long time coming. Here we are.”

Yes, here we are.

As Holmoe added, the journey continues.

Jaren Wilkey/BYU BYU Director of Athletics Tom Holmoe addressed questions along with Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby during a new conference at the BYU Broadcasting Building in Provo on Friday, Sept. 10, 2021. (BYU Courtesy Photo)

Darnell Dickson

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