This is the first half of BYU Athletic Director Tom Holmoe’s semi-annual media question and answer session. The second half of the session can be found here.
BYU Athletic Director Tom Holmoe held his semi-annual question and answer session with the media on Friday morning.
The conversational-style press conference quickly turned to BYU football, with the new coaching staff and the potential Big-12 expansion being the heaviest topics.
On working with newly hired head football coach Kalani Sitake:
“It’s been good. It’s been a good month. It’s been a really good opportunity to me to get to know Kalani better. When you’re going through the interview process, it’s a short period of time and pretty intense. It’s been a good experience for me to get to know him better and to see how he works and how he operates and to see his strengths. So I’m excited about that.”
On the new football staff:
“I’m happy with the staff. First, right off the bat, when you talk to people that you interview for the head coaching job, you ask them about their staff and who they would like to assemble. And that’s a big part. Some people aren’t really sure, or they haven’t thought through it to that point. Kalani had a good feel for what he wanted to do. As we started working through that it was important to get the coordinators in first. I like the fact that he used the coordinators and counseled with them to select the position coaches. He actually made a little switch at one point, and that was cool to see that he had the courage, felt that it it was the best thing to do, and did it.”
On the staff being filled with former players:
“It wasn’t really (a goal) for me. I didn’t hire the assistant coaches. We spoke early on about some possibilities, and there’s people on the staff that were in those discussions. There’s some people that aren’t on the staff that were in those discussions. So, really, it came down to him. Being a head coach myself I thought it was really important that the head coach picks the staff and that the athletic director stays out of his business. I think I was there for a resource – I know a little bit about football – but this is Kalani’s staff and I feel really good about that.”
On the lack of experience on the staff:
“Well, it depends on how define experience. Some people would say Ty Detmer doesn’t have any experience, and I’d beg to differ on that. If you’re saying college football coaching, yeah, possibly. In my experience in recruiting, I’ve seen high school coaches that can definitely be NFL coaches. Not necessarily head football coaches. But head football coaches in high school could be NFL assistant coaches if it wasn’t for connections, networking and people that they know. So, to me, experience is important, but this is a unique situation at BYU – where I think that there are other factors that are as important as college football experience.”
On if there was an increased financial obligation to the new staff:
“Yeah. When you say ‘obligation,’ it’s something that, in just talking with a number of our candidates and a number of people I just counseled with prior to the selection and during the interviews, I felt that it was important that we added some resources and people. So you have some financial resources that went up, and we added a couple more people to the staff, just for support. you can only have nine coaches, one way or the other.”
On the market value of coaches and how BYU compares:
“Well I think that’s what every school should do – is do what they think is right. I think one of the things that we try to do is align ourselves with the mission of the university and the church that sponsors us. So I take counsel from my superiors and I know what they like and what they want and the parameters. So, to compare BYU to any other school, you can’t do it. People will make the comparisons, but when you get into the thick of things, there’s reasons why we do the things we do and reasons why we don’t do some things. It’s odd to me to see everyone else compare themselves to each other.”
On expectations for the new staff and the tough schedule:
“That will be a difficult part. There’s nothing like being able to call a game and make adjustments. So that part of it, with a stiff schedule, will be difficult. I like our guys and what they’ll do. I like that the fact that, to kind of balance that out, we have an experienced team. We’ll have good skill people in positions that are important and I like where we’re going with our line and interior people. I like where that’s going.”
“Really I think we’re scheduled out pretty thick for a number of years, so I feel good slowing down for a bit. I think at this point in time, my work with Dave Brown and ESPN put us in a position where we don’t need to schedule way out into the 2020’s. But, some of those games that have been scheduled beyond 2020 are a reflection of a continuations of games that we might be playing this year, next year and the year after. So I’m not really looking to do series that start in 2020, but if I get a good one then I will. We’re working on one right now that could be fun.”
On if the coaching staff has rallied donors:
Yeah, a little bit. Kalani has a personality where he likes to be one-on-one. He’s good with recruits, he’s good with donors. Some people that we’ve been associated with, that have helped us with resources over the years, have wanted to be around him and talk to him. He’s good at that and it will be a blessing. Some of the other guys on the staff are similar to that. You talk about experience, and we have guys on the staff that can plug right into the university. It’s a part of college football is to plug into the culture of a campus, and I like what I see so far.”
On if there’s increased excitement about recruiting:
“I think that everywhere in the country right now at this time of year you’re on a high-fuel level. You’ve got to go, because you can lose guys, you can spin guys, it’s really a critical time. I think the proof in the pudding will be how we do through the course of an entire recruiting cycle. And when we go out in the spring recruiting and see what impressions we make on freshmen and sophomores. That’s not something we used to do in the past, but I think to compete with the teams we have to compete against to get our kids, you’ve got to start them young. That will be something that I’ll be looking to see. I’m pleased with where they are right now, but for a little while he just had three coaches on the staff. That’s a little hairy during recruiting season.”
On Big-12 expansion:
“Well I think the Big-12 has made it pretty clear that they’re going to do what they want to do. Whether or not they’re going to have a (championship) game, it doesn’t really matter if they have 10 or 12. They just have the opportunity to do what they want to because of that legislation. Recent reports have said they probably won’t have a championship game this year. For me, I’ve always monitored it, but I think the Big-12 can do whatever they want. For BYU, it’s important for us to be successful and stick to what we do best, and that’s to build great championship teams and provide a great football program. We’ve done it for a long time and we plan to keep doing that and make ourselves as attractive as we can.”
On a “Plan B”:
“I’m not looking on ‘Plan B’ right now. ‘Plan A’ is beating Arizona in the first game of the season. That’s what we can control right now. We can control what we do with our players, our coaches and ‘Cougar Nation.’ That’s a big part of it, that’s a big part of their concern – I don’t want to put it off to the side, we think about it a lot – but we don’t really control that, so we have to focus on what we can. Time is going to tell. This is something I’ve had to be patient with. I think sometimes people think I’m not involved, but I’m involved up to my eyeballs.
On improving the Polynesian influence:
“Well, I think (it started) when we hired a Polynesian coach. He has a lot of friends and connections and interests that have been with him in his life for awhile and have been part of his success. So I don’t think that’s any different than if you were at another school and got hired, you’d probably bring the people that you believed in and trusted and felt could help you be successful. That being said, we have a strong influence of Polynesian student athletes on our football team, and have for a long time. And I think that will help in some regard. The thing that’s important is that part of it is the staff, but part is individual coaches and individual student athletes. It only takes one student athlete to hit one coach and match up and connect with them. Recruiting is about connections. Ultimately, we want to connect them to the school and that’s what we’ve been able to do for so long. We have a great connection because of the culture. But, there’s a lot of choices for potential student athletes, and we’ve got to work. We’ve got to work hard. We’ve got to make more connections and tie more individuals into the things that are attractive to them here, rather than someone else. And we can do that. We’ve got a great place to sell. BYU sells itself. I know that people think there are distractions and weaknesses, but to me, it sells itself.”
On whether or not Independence is sustainable:
“You can see through legislation and the financial resources of contracts that there’s a divide. The capital that you can build and strengthen your team with is important. One of the things that was impressive to me was that we had a great financial year this last year. That’s a tribute to our fans who support the team, and those who raise money, and to our connections with ESPN. I’m just feeling very fortunate that we made a jump. I’m only going to look forward. We’re going to push the envelope to stay there and do what we need to do to remain with a competitive advantage. Most of our competitive advantage isn’t going to be money, our competitive advantage is in other areas. Human capital. I love that. I think it’s a cool thing. There’s a lot of teams out there that have a lot of money that can’t do anything.”
On how BYU’s contract with ESPN is going:
“Very well. I think if you see the times we’re on television and the teams we play, and how quickly we can do games. We have ESPN call us and say, ‘you need to play a team (on this date)’ and we’ll do it. We call them for a team, and they help us. That is really what I see, and why I think it’s a great and healthy relationship.”