Education Week: Athletic Director Tom Holmoe addresses ‘Cougar nation’

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BYU Athletic Director Tom Holmoe speaks to Education Week participants on Wednesday during Education Week. He showcased recent highlights and upcoming developments for BYU’s various athletic programs. (Addie Blacker)

Editor’s note: Education Week coverage can be found in this section of the website.

BYU Athletic Director Tom Holmoe discussed the current state of the school’s athletic department at Education Week on Wednesday morning. Holmoe spoke before a large audience of fans and visitors to showcase recent highlights and upcoming developments for BYU’s various athletic programs.

Support for BYU

Holmoe provided an update for BYU’s “All In” fundraising campaign which launched last November, where the athletic department requested donations to help minimize its projected $20 million shortfall. The effort raised a total of $15.2 million. Holmoe said it was “humbling” to receive such support from generous donors during the difficult times.

“There are so many ways to support BYU athletics, and that’s what Cougar nation is all about,” Holmoe said.

Holmoe also mentioned the impressive turnout for Cougar fans at games across the country no matter the sport or location. “No matter where we go, people are always there to support the team. Our student athletes always feel right at home.”

Built4Life

In the new world of college athletes profiting from their name, image and likeness, BYU football launched its Built4Life initiative to help promote financial self reliance and literacy for the team’s student athletes. Holmoe revealed that football was really the pilot group and that plans have been made to spread Built4Life across all of BYU’s athletic programs.

“The focus is to educate our student athletes and help them learn,” Holmoe said.

Holmoe said he had counseled with football and men’s basketball head coaches Kalani Sitake and Mark Pope, among others, in determining the mission of Built4Life, where the group came to the agreement that it was most important to focus on the opportunity for education rather than earning money.

“It’s really good for me to know that we’re progressing and in a place to educate our athletes,” Holmoe said.

Holmoe announced plans to hold classes and seminars for student athletes to learn how best to build their personal brand and expressed his goal that every football player enter a mentorship program with a Utah-based CEO.

Recent highlights

Holmoe praised the successes of BYU’s teams and athletes over the past year, especially to the national champion women’s cross country team as well as individual champion runners Anna Camp and Conner Mantz.

“Our track and field programs are platinum,” he said.

Holmoe gave a special shout out to women’s cross country head coach Diljeet Taylor and her resilience in navigating the team amid COVID-19 uncertainty to a national title.

“Diljeet took it to heart and did everything possible to win,” Holmoe said. “She leads the team in a manner that’s hard to believe … she’s in the top 2% of coaches ever at BYU.”

Holmoe shared another all-time BYU memory in quarterback Zach Wilson’s prolific 2020 campaign, touting his energy and devotion in “carrying the team” as “one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen at BYU.” Holmoe expressed gratitude for the way the football team battled through their “weird” season and stuck to the safety protocols to continue playing.

The immediate future

With the beginning of fall sports on the horizon, Holmoe said BYU’s teams have been “rolling” through training camp and continue to follow precautions to ensure optimal health and safety.

“We’re doing everything possible to make sure that our kids can play healthy and stay healthy,” Holmoe said.

Holmoe plugged the men’s basketball team for what projects to be another strong season, crediting Pope for bringing the Cougars back to the NCAA tournament this past March along with his recruiting effort to bring back All-American point guard Alex Barcello for one last dance in Provo.

“He sacrifices so much for the team,” Holmoe said of Barcello.

Holmoe expressed his excitement to have fans back in attendance at sporting events, becoming emotional as he mentioned LaVell Edwards Stadium and its namesake, his former coach and BYU legend.

“It’s a miracle to call it LaVell Edwards Stadium,” he said.

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