Holmoe says BYU ‘ready to go,’ if and when college sports resume
BYU Athletic Director Tom Holmoe joined BYU Sports Nation on Monday morning in the midst of a critical point in college sports. He said BYU and other schools are largely in a “holding pattern” when it comes to figuring out a fall season due to COVID-19 concerns, but if and when it happens, he is confident the Cougars will be ready to go.
As the overseer of BYU Athletics and the man charged with scheduling high-profile BYU Football matchups, Holmoe was the perfect person to talk to at a time like this, as several games in the upcoming football season have been canceled due to several programs deciding to only play schools within their same conferences, including rival University of Utah, who the Cougars were set to open the season against on Sept. 3.
The sudden cancellations have forced Holmoe and other athletic directors to “sprint” to find new opponents and places for their teams to play. Holmoe said scheduling a season typically takes more than a year, but he is left with only a few weeks now, as fall training camps are set to begin early August.
As conversations occur between BYU and various football programs, some reports have come out about possible matchups, including a big one about playing Alabama to open the season. Holmoe said these discussions are ongoing and will continue in the coming days but that official contracts cannot be signed until the Power 5 conferences, which include the SEC that Alabama plays in, decide on what exactly their seasons will look like.
As independent schools like BYU wait on the Power 5 schools, those schools are in turn waiting to see what happens with professional sports organizations such as the NFL and NBA. Once again, it’s looking like the NBA will be the first domino to fall, just like when the sports world shut down with Rudy Gobert and the Utah Jazz in March.
This time, if the NBA bubble experiment in Orlando works, the NFL will likely adopt some similar practices and push their season ahead, giving college football the green light and a blueprint to follow. This would likely include frequent testing, mandatory masks, and daily symptom checks, most of which BYU is already doing in practices, along with a period of isolation or quarantine prior to and following travel.
The good news for Cougar fans is that once the conferences and other schools decide what to do, BYU is already in a position to succeed should sports resume. Holmoe said the athletic department’s motto right now is “when things open up, we are ready to go.”
One big leg up that the Cougars have on other schools, in particular fellow West Coast Conference schools in California whose campuses are still closed, is that BYU athletes have been back on campus in Provo since early June.
Holmoe mentioned that BYU administration and BYU athletics each have a “COVID team” that is using the return of student-athletes as a sort of “pilot program” to implement procedures and precautions that will create a safe environment at BYU. These include the masks and symptom checks previously mentioned.
Holmoe said that the NCAA has put forth very “stringent” guidelines and standards for COVID-19 testing, and some Power 5 conferences have cut out non-conference opponents because some smaller schools aren’t able to fulfill all the testing expectations.
Holmoe did not mention this being an issue for BYU and reiterated several times that the medical and training staff at BYU is creating an incredibly safe environment for athletes on campus. In fact, he said one big reason BYU wanted to bring all their student-athletes back to on-campus facilities for voluntary workouts was to create a safer environment than the athletes would likely have on their own if they trained and practiced elsewhere.
As far as fans in the stands go, Holmoe said if the season were to start tomorrow, BYU could allow a reduced number of fans in LaVell Edwards Stadium with social distancing and other precautions in place. This could change depending on what level of COVID-19 risk the state of Utah finds itself in at any given moment.
Even with so much still up in the air, Holmoe says that the big decisions on whether or not football will be played at all this fall, and in what form, will likely have to be made in the next couple of weeks, after which teams will turn to the “last resort” of pushing football back into the spring. In any case, Holmoe believes the Cougars will be ready for whatever form sports take in the coming months and year.