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Further proof Tom Holmoe was right to say no to Huskies for turkey of an invite

BYU athletic director saved the Cougars school time, expenses, game prep and frustration over holiday weekend by declining an offer to play Washington, which became moot issue after all

SHARE Further proof Tom Holmoe was right to say no to Huskies for turkey of an invite

BYU’s director of athletics Tom Holmoe, poses with new head football coach Kalani Sitake following a press conference in Provo Monday, Dec. 21, 2015.

Scott G Winterton, Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

It didn’t take long, a day or so, for BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe to be validated for his decision not to play Washington this Saturday.

I like his skill and acumen on and off the field and he deserves credit for reading between the lines of the much-debated invite.

But it doesn’t take a genius to see that whatever Holmoe decided to do with the Pac-12 offer, it was all moot but for the finger-wagging and second-guessing that followed from those who called it ducking a Power Five game.

Utah will play Washington in Seattle this weekend because Arizona State is unable to pass Pac-12 testing protocols. BYU at Washington? Nada.

What a surprise after word leaked out Sunday night that BYU turned down a chance to play the Huskies on the road.


Let’s break down Holmoe’s decision last weekend to “maybe” play Washington this Saturday …

• BYU would have to call players and coaches with holiday travel plans and tell them to cancel tickets and rides.

• BYU would have to spend somewhere between $300,000 to $500,000 in added testing, travel and lodging costs.

• BYU would not be paid TV monies to play the Pac-12 home game, using Pac-12 officials.

• BYU would need to lock in a rush job to do film cutouts, game plan, ramp up a scout team, devise a game plan, practice for Washington Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, all the while building up a regular week of mental and emotional player preparation to compete and protect its 9-0 record and No. 8 ranking.

• BYU would have to agree that despite going through the rigors to play, the Pac-12 could cancel the game as late as Thursday if there was another league team available to play the Huskies.

Imagine Holmoe, sitting in his office at home or at the Student Athlete Building, pondering this proposal to play this game right after he asked program supporters to donate to help battle a $20 million budget shortfall, after he’d laid off more than half of his athletic department sports information staff.

I’d envision him calling Sitake, getting his feedback, his feelings about the challenge of the week, which could be for absolutely nothing by Thursday.

I’d hope, in any kind of universe he breathes in, that it would hit him in the head like a timber from the Great Northwest that this was perhaps the dumbest way to treat BYU’s football team, even in an inane and crazy pandemic 2020 season. His team was the only FBS team to play football in the entire country west of El Paso when the season started.

The ask, on the surface, was idiotic. On its merits, it was stupid. On a more in-depth level, it did not make sense when considering options being worked on to add at least one, possibly two other games. To play would have been a pure ego move.

Then he decided.

He’d go with the smart decision, avoid the ego trip. He declined to play, telling this to friends he has great relationships with at Washington and the Pac-12.

Nobody had to know how this sausage was in the process of being made. After all, after hundreds of hours of phone calls this season — arranging, accepting, declining and working out games for a completely remade season — Holmoe was able to negotiate in private to protect both parties as the process played out.

Then somebody, likely someone from either Pac-12 headquarters in San Francisco or from the University of Washington in Seattle, spilled the decision to Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports, who, naturally, posted it on Twitter.

It’s interesting to see the motivation in this. What purpose would it serve?

Let’s see …

The Pac-12 is getting blasted from coast to coast for its handling of the hopes and dreams of football players, delaying while other leagues played, then allowing play as cold weather approached at the height of COVID-19 and infections were raging across America.

Washington and Utah were not ranked, hadn’t played hardly any games, and Oregon stood No. 9 behind BYU, trying to use a 3-0 record, with wins over 0-2 Stanford, 1-1 Washington State and 1-2 UCLA to claw its Duck Nike money higher in the rankings.

And, oh yeah, the CFP initial rankings were due out Tuesday at 5 on ESPN.

With no out-of-conference resume, with games getting canceled every single week since opening Pac-12 play, with lack of computer data and inventory of games, perhaps a political play — hitting BYU on social media for ducking a game might work. Wouldn’t it?

Maybe. After all, after prohibiting BYU from playing Utah, Arizona State and Stanford back in August, the Cougars were vulnerable to schedule criticism. And it’s legitimate, to the bean spiller, it was really, really nifty.

For The Athletic’s Stewart Mandel, it opened his door to blast BYU for not playing Washington.

Funny thing is, it’s all moot today.

The BYU-Washington game was never going to be, it was obvious by Tuesday midday.

Kalani Sitake, whose team practiced Monday to prepare for Washington just in case, is now enjoying some turkey with the week off from a turkey of a deal.