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Holmoe: BYU basketball program may face more NCAA sanctions; says football team 'is better'

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Tom Holmoe semi annual press conference with the media

January 29, 2016

Photography by: Mark A. Philbrick/BYU Photo

Copyright BYU Photo 2016

All Rights Reserved

photo@byu.edu (801)422-7322

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1601-56 153 Tom Holmoe semi annual press conference with the media January 29, 2016 Photography by: Mark A. Philbrick/BYU Photo Copyright BYU Photo 2016 All Rights Reserved photo@byu.edu (801)422-7322 4880
Mark A. Philbrick/BYU

PROVO — The NCAA investigation involving the BYU basketball program is not completed yet, BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe told an audience during Education Week on Wednesday.

Last year, the NCAA began looking into allegations that guard Nick Emery had received improper benefits from a booster in a case that BYU self-reported. Over the summer, BYU announced that Emery, who withdrew from school just before the 2017-18 season began, would be returning to the Cougars but that he would be sidelined for the first nine games due to the NCAA’s findings.

Holmoe said the program could face more NCAA sanctions.

During the 55-minute Q & A session with Education Week attendees and BYU fans, Holmoe was asked if that NCAA investigation had been put to rest.

“No. There have been some things that have come out. Those are in regard to Nick Emery. Everything that’s been known has been reported,” Holmoe said. “But there’s another part of it that comes up sometime in September or October. There’s another part that has to do with not the individual athlete but the rest of the program. We find that out and we’ll be able to discuss that in October.”

Most of the questions that Holmoe fielded Wednesday, of course, involved the BYU football team, which posted a miserable 4-9 record last season.

“It’s kind of unchartered waters for BYU football … I’ve seen a lot of BYU football. I think you bleed, like I do, blue,” he said. “There are ups and downs. In order to get good at it, you have to make changes, adapt and try something different or else it’s going to remain the same. That’s why I’m so excited for this year. Football has a chance to change and get back to what has been tradition — being good for so many years … This team is better. That doesn’t mean they’ll come right out and play like that. It’s really all about chemistry and trust and love. The best teams love each other."

Holmoe shed some light on how last season affected him personally.

“I go to church on Sundays. Usually, after a big win, it’s hard for me to get to my seat. People want to talk about the game. After last year, I walked into church and it was like the parting of the Red Sea,” he said. “Nobody wanted to talk to me. I think they felt sorry for me. People would say, ‘Brother Holmoe,’ from those who would call me ‘Tom’ all of the time. ‘Are you OK?’ Yeah. It was a hard thing … There’s not a book you can go to, other than the scriptures, there’s not a book that tells you how to recover from a 4-9 season by LaVell Edwards. He didn’t leave that book behind.”

Asked about the current quarterback battle between senior Tanner Mangum and freshman Zach Wilson, Holmoe said, "The coaches are going to put the best quarterback out there and I’m going to be comfortable with whoever it is. I really am … Whichever one they choose will be a really good choice. I feel really good about that.”

When Holmoe was asked about conference realignment, he said there probably won’t be any movement until 2023, when some conferences will renegotiate with their television partners.

He added that there are “a lot of things going on with TV." In 10 years, Holmoe said, games probably won’t be shown on regular TV but rather be shown on the internet and social media sites, viewed on a computer or smartphone.

A couple of years ago, the Big 12 considered various candidates, including BYU, for inclusion into the league. Ultimately, the Big 12 opted to remain at 10 schools rather than expand.

Does Holmoe feel BYU is being discriminated against?

“No, I don’t,” he said. “The reason is, we’re members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We’ve learned that we need to stand up. We chose this. This is what we are. You can’t just pick out the good fruit. We do the very best we can. People take shots sometimes. Bring it on. It’s OK. We’re strong. Because of that, we get stronger. When we weren’t accepted into the Big 12, they decided, in the end, they weren’t going to add anybody. That’s why. Some people said it was because of certain activist groups and stuff. We listened to the feedback (from the Big 12) and we got better. We improved. We are definitely stronger in those areas as a school. I don’t want anybody (at BYU) thinking, ‘Woe is me. We are just being picked on.’ We are blessed beyond belief. When we crush people, people don’t feel sorry for us. We’re just competing with everybody else.”

Later, Holmoe said: “The thing we’ve been pursuing is to compete with the Power 5 conferences on a regular basis. Our kids can compete with anybody, person-to-person. But the conferences have been aligned to where you don’t get to do that. I just yearn to see our kids compete against the best. It’s hard to do that when you can’t get into a conference or compete in a conference like that.”

Holmoe said that if BYU qualifies for a bowl game this season by winning at least six games, it will get into a bowl game, though there is not one scheduled at this time. The Cougars had been contracted to play in the Poinsettia Bowl this season if it became bowl eligible but that game went out of business a couple of years ago.

“People are going, ‘We’re not very good. People aren’t going to like us. ESPN is going to dump us. Bowls aren’t going to want us.’ People — BYU has a great reputation still this day,” Holmoe said. “Last year, with a 4-9 team, our (TV) numbers were up. People watch our games. The amazing thing is, so many people who aren’t part of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints watch the games. They like BYU. Now, we can’t be messing around too long. If we bounce back and play well again, we’ll be back on top. I don’t want to be mediocre.”

Holmoe said his expectation is to play arch-rival Utah in “every sport we can every year.” Utah doesn’t want to do long-term contracts in any sport, he said.

Holmoe said new Utah athletic director Mark Harlan is “a really good guy” and that they have met together. Holmoe acknowledged that it’s tough for the Utes to schedule the Cougars every year in football because Utah only has three or four non-conference games a year.

Holmoe was also asked about the basketball program losing talented players. Eric Mika and Elijah Bryant, for example, have opted to leave school early.

He called West Coast Conference rival Gonzaga a “Goliath. They are really, really good.”

Holmoe said in college basketball, 40 percent of players across the country transfer every year.

“That’s one of those things that we’re dealing with. I’m not going to make any excuse for losing some players at BYU,” he said. “If we’re really great at what we do, then they won’t leave. That’s what I’m telling our coaches. We have kids that leave but we get way more kids that transfer into BYU than go out. I don’t want to lose one. Sometimes it happens. I can’t worry about who’s gone because they can’t help me. I’m worried about the ones coming in.”