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BYU's Tom Holmoe had been aware of Gonzaga-MWC talks, surprised Craig Thompson would discuss it openly

PROVO — Not surprisingly, BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe isn’t tipping his hand about what the future of his program might be.

But he did express surprise that Mountain West Conference commissioner Craig Thompson was willing to talk openly about the possibility of Gonzaga bolting the West Coast Conference.

“If you have listened to me through the years, I’m not going to put my stuff out on the table about where we’re at,” Holmoe said Thursday morning on the BYUtv program BYU Sports Nation from Las Vegas. “It’s just best to keep things internal. I’m surprised that Craig Thompson didn’t keep his stuff internal.”

Holmoe was responding publicly for the first time since a report published Wednesday that the Mountain West is looking to expand, and that Gonzaga — and possibly BYU — could leave the West Coast Conference.

Holmoe and Thompson serve together on the NCAA basketball tournament selection committee.

The WCC Tournament tips off Thursday and conference realignment reports and speculation threaten to overshadow the games that take place at Orleans Arena.

Ever since BYU left the Mountain West Conference in 2011-12 to go independent in football and placed most of its other sports in the West Coast Conference, the Cougars almost always come up in the conversation when conference realignment reports surface.

“It’s March 1 and the madness has already begun,” Holmoe joked Thursday. “It’s interesting. This is chapter 7 of conference talk amongst BYU for years and years. I’m aware of the talks. There are things that are internal. We have not been involved, but I’m aware of the talks.”

Thompson told the Union-Tribune’s Mark Zeigler, “Since August, I have spoken to six university presidents and/or athletic directors that have called inquiring about whether we are going to expand, and the Zags are one of them. I guess the adjective I’d use is exploratory. Truthfully, what we’re trying to do here is better ourselves and we’re trying to understand what are your goals and ambitions, and what are the Mountain West’s goals and ambitions. Is there something there? … But obviously, they would enhance our basketball enterprise.”

According to Zeigler, “Thompson said BYU was not among the other schools that have contacted him about expansion, but several sources indicated that BYU — which went independent in football in 2011 and plays in the WCC in most other sports — would consider a return to the Mountain West at least in basketball if Gonzaga joins.”