Holmoe: How Big 12 prep is pushing BYU athletics to evolve
For most of us, the start of the 2023-24 college sports season feels like a long ways off. We have a year and a half before that will become a focal point.
BYU director of athletics Tom Holmoe explained during a roundtable with reporters at BYU on Thursday that his coaches and athletes have pretty much the same approach.
“I’m just really excited and proud that our coaches and players are focused on the here and now,” Holmoe said. “We really have top-notch kids and coaches right now — it can get better. But I think they’re focused right now on what we’re doing in the West Coast Conference (or the other respective leagues). They want to be successful and meet their goals.”
They are aware, just as everyone else is, that the transition to the Big 12 conference really isn’t that far away.
“Here we are kind of on the crest of jumping into the Big 12 and that with that will come a lot of changes,” Holmoe said.
The Big 12 certainly figured prominently in many of the questions Holmoe discussed since the return to conference play in football and the change in other sports will have the biggest impact on the Cougars in more than a decade.
But there’s not exactly a clear checklist in what steps to take to make the transition.
“The day that it was announced that we were joining the Big 12, people celebrated like crazy like we had arrived,” Holmoe said. “My first thought was, ‘oh, no, we have so much work to do.’ I really don’t know on a clock if we’re at two o’clock or 11 o’clock. it just seems to me like there’s a lot of work to do and very little time. The more you think about it, the more you project what you need, what needs to change and what needs to stay the same. There’s less strategy involved. The day will come when we play our first game and we will be as be as ready as we can be, but we just want to be as close to that as possible.”
He expressed gratitude for the assistance of consultants and advisors who have provided insight on the process.
“We have some really good strong BYU alums and friends of BYU that have expertise in this area,” Holmoe said. “I also have used some of my peers and friends in the business that have been through this before. We’re not doing it blindly. We’re not doing it on our own but we’re using resources that we feel will benefit us. We can’t do it alone.”
One of the most prominent question will be how joining the league will impact BYU’s athletic budget.
“Our budget will increase,” Holmoe said. “We think that we’ll have to step up support-wise and structure wise, and then the revenue streams will obviously be bigger. I think what we’re trying to do is make the best use of the revenue that will be new as well as existing revenue.”
He explained that one of the challenges is attempt to decide exactly where budget increases will be most effective. BYU won’t always have the same priorities as other schools.
“I think that if you’re going to just throw money out, it might not be as efficient as if you spend money to strengthen a specific area,” Holmoe said. “There are some areas that we might not be in the top quartile of the Big 12 and there’s others where we will want to be up at the top. It might not be necessarily comparing ourselves against an individual school in all cases, but in some cases you will.”
Holmoe said the university doesn’t plan to make any drastic facility changes to prepare to join the Big 12, but said it will focus on a “master plan” of overall improvement.
“We’re two years away,” Holmoe said. “You could probably build a building in two years but it probably wouldn’t be as good as you’d want. I think right now where we’re at with facilities is trying to look at kind of a master plan and where we could be five or 10 years from now. That’s how far out you’d have to go in order to build some things. But there might be a range of adjustments we can make to upgrade our programs.”
There is no doubt that one of the biggest changes the Big 12 announcement made in Holmoe’s responsibilities was how it impacted football scheduling.
After years of nearly constant effort to put together the best schedules he could, the conference affiliation now puts him in the position of dropping games to get to the point where the Cougars will be in position to participate in the league slate.
“I’m taking eight or nine teams and removing them from schedules beginning in 2023,” Holmoe said. “We were fully scheduled out to probably 2026 or 2027. For those years, we’re trying to take teams out, not add teams.”
He said that in-state rivalry games will be something he still wants to have happen but other rivalries will be even more difficult.
“Would we want to play Utah and Utah State? Yes,” Holmoe said. “We have some other teams that we’ve had rivalries with and played more than others. You could look at other schools like Boise State and teams from the PAC 12. We’ve had some good rivalries and we have scheduled games. Those are decisions that still need to be made as to when we can get back and how we will get back. Will it be consistent where we’re playing a rivalry game every year? You’ve seen that I’d say the answer would be no.”
Holmoe did say that he would talk with BYU head coach Kalani Sitake about making some of those decisions.
“We’re going to play a conference schedule and so you’re going to have either three or four games now,” Holmoe said. “It’s certainly a way different strategy.”