BYU promotes a non-Latter-day Saint to women’s cross-country head coach, signaling that head coaches do not need to be church members
Diljeet Taylor, who was raised in the Sikh religion, was previously cross-country associate head coach and will continue her role as associate head coach for BYU men’s and women’s track and field
Do head coaches at Brigham Young University have to be active members of the faith that owns and operates BYU?
It is a question that has been asked many times of BYU Athletics leaders throughout the years, but never really definitively answered.
In a news release announcing the promotion of wildly successful assistant coach Diljeet Taylor to BYU’s new women’s cross-country head coach, the school acknowledges that Taylor is not a member of the church.
“Taylor was born and raised in Ceres, California. She is of Indian descent and grew up in the Sikh religion. Taylor is not a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which sponsors BYU. While in the past head coaches throughout BYU Athletics have often been members of the church, it has been a practice but not a policy,” the release says.
Taylor becomes the first non-Latter-day Saint head coach at BYU in the last half-century or so, but not ever. According to former BYU athletic director Glen Tuckett, former football coach Harold W. Kopp, former men’s tennis coach Jim Osborne, former wrestling coach Fred Davis and former gymnastics coach Mako Sakamoto were not members of the church.
It is not certain when it became standard procedure for the Cougars to hire only Latter-day Saint head coaches, but it was clearly the expectation laid out for Tom Holmoe when he became athletic director in 2005.
“Taylor is not a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which sponsors BYU. While in the past head coaches throughout BYU Athletics have often been members of the church, it has been a practice but not a policy.” — BYU release announcing Diljeet Taylor’s promotion
During the course of his last two major hires — Kalani Sitake as football coach to replace Bronco Mendenhall and Mark Pope as men’s basketball coach to replace Dave Rose — Holmoe told reporters that head coaches for all sports at BYU must be active church members.
“I know a lot of guys that run search firms,” Holmoe told the Deseret New in 2019 after Pope was hired. “They call every time and go, ‘Hey, do you want us to help?’ I am like, ‘I know the two guys (who are Latter-day Saints), or the five guys or the seven women. I know who they are.”
Taylor has been a rising star in the cross-country and long-distance running coaching circles for quite some time, and many have wondered how BYU has been able to keep her — even as an assistant or associate head coach. She has returned the school to national prominence in women’s long-distance running and cross-country under the direction of head track and field and cross-country coach Ed Eyestone.
She graduated from Cal State Stanislaus in 2002 with a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies. She is married to former CSS basketball player Ira Taylor and they have two children.
In essence, Taylor has been running the women’s programs for quite some time.
She coached the BYU women’s cross-country team to the COVID-19-delayed 2020 NCAA Cross Country National Championship in March of 2021, the team’s first national title since 2002.
“We are thrilled to name Diljeet as head coach, and we are incredibly thankful and amazed at everything she has done for BYU track and cross-country,” Holmoe said in the release. “What she has accomplished, including securing a national championship in cross-country this past season, is something to make all of Cougar Nation proud.
“But even more important than what she’s done, is who she is. She is an incredible human being, with an incredible amount of character, who has guided BYU student-athletes in important and meaningful ways. We are so fortunate to have Diljeet here at BYU.”
In five seasons since joining the BYU long-distance running programs, Taylor has helped the BYU women earn 10 All-America honors in cross-country and 54 in distance and middle distance track events.
“I continue to be grateful for the administration here at BYU who have shown me an incredible amount of value over the past five years,” Taylor said in the release. “The support I have received has empowered me to give my best to our program. I look forward to continuing to build the women in our program so they can compete at the highest level in the NCAA. Our success here is a direct result of having the right women at the right place.”
Taylor was a head coach at various programs at Cal State Stanislaus from 2007 to 2016 before joining Eyestone’s staff at BYU.