PROVO — BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe has seen enough surprises since the coronavirus pandemic halted college sports last March to not rule anything out any more.

From playing all fall sports in the spring, to canceling the entire college football season, to finally playing Notre Dame again, to only playing fellow independents, everything is still very much in play, Holmoe said Monday in a rare public appearance.

And yes, that includes the thought of playing the mighty Alabama Crimson Tide to open the 2020 season, after reports surfaced Saturday that a BYU-Bama matchup to replace the canceled BYU-Utah game was a possibility.

“There have been a lot of communications, a lot of conversations with people,” Holmoe acknowledged on BYUtv’s “BYU Sports Nation” show when asked about the Alabama interest. “You gotta look at it this way: It might take me a year, a year and a half, to put together a schedule, normally. And when those two conferences, the Big Ten and the Pac-12, announced they were going conference games only, it opened up games. … Some (possible games) have been reported from their side. And I think that (the reports and rumors) will continue today and tomorrow and until this goes to the point where we are playing football.”

BYU lost five games — vs. Utah, Arizona State, Stanford, Michigan State and Minnesota — in a 24-hour span July 9-10 when two of of the five Power Five conferences moved to conference-only play.

“Yes, that could occur, because being an independent, if every conference went conference only, and didn’t leave a plus-one or plus-two, then there wouldn’t be any other games available, and we would work out some type of an arrangement with other independent teams, or, maybe other schools that for some reason might have a game available.” — BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe

Holmoe, in his 15th year as BYU’s AD, said his life has been “rather wild and woolly” as he scrambles to put together a replacement schedule all while fearing the entire season could be canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, or moved to the spring.

“It has been, like, two weeks, and you are thinking you have to get those games back on the schedule,” he said, noting that the first option is to replace the games with other P5 opponents. “It is such a moving picture. Every day is a new day. You just have to stay with it, keep your focus, keep your wits, and at the end of the day when they say, ‘We are playing,’ be sure to have a schedule.”

Whatever happens, Holmoe stressed throughout his appearance on the television show, BYU student-athletes will be ready to compete. He also referred to the “waiting game” several times, mentioning that everyone is waiting for the SEC, Big 12 and ACC to decide their next step.

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“I am super impressed by our student-athletes ... to see how they adapted so quickly,” he said. “They are ready to go. That’s what our motto was: When this thing is over, we are going to be ready to go.”

Holmoe said the state of Utah reopening from March’s shutdown rather early, compared to most states, enabled BYU athletes to return to campus as early as June 1. The school felt like it could do a better job keeping them safe at its facilities than if they were to train and work out elsewhere.

BYU president Kevin Worthen quickly put together a “Covid Team” to address health, safety and testing issues.

“I feel like our athletes have enjoyed being back,” Holmoe said. “They want to play … We have established a really good environment, and that’s why I feel so strongly that our kids are doing well.”

BYU has declined to make public the results of the COVID-19 testing of student-athletes. However, Holmoe said Monday that BYU will meet the standards and protocols for testing and athlete safety that the NCAA put forth last week, as well as any put forth by conferences of possible BYU opponents.

The NCAA’s protocols “are pretty stringent,” Holmoe said, noting that some conferences such as the Ivy League and Patriot League have already said they can’t afford them and have canceled their seasons or pushed them to the spring.

Here are topics that Holmoe addressed Monday, a day in which he would have delivered his annual “State of the Program” address as part of BYU’s football media day, which was canceled last week:

On possibly playing Notre Dame

Notre Dame, which owes BYU a game after the Cougars visited South Bend, Indiana, twice early last decade, has had several games canceled by the Big Ten/Pac-12 decisions, including one in Week 13 against USC. Could the Irish, who have a scheduling agreement with the ACC, finally make their contracted Provo visit?

“Maybe,” Holmoe said. “Notre Dame is an entity in its own. Right now, Notre Dame and the ACC are trying to work out how they might do their scheduling, considering the ACC could go all the way through their schedule, or perhaps a conference-only, or maybe a conference-plus type of entity. So, it is in a wait (and see) holding pattern, to see what they want to do, and how their schedule is going to play out.”

On playing an independent-only schedule

If all conferences follow the Pac-12 and Big Ten and play only teams within their conferences, Holmoe said BYU playing fellow independents Liberty, UMass, UConn, New Mexico State and Army is a distinct possibility, and has been discussed since last May, as the Deseret News first reported.

“Yes, that could occur, because being an independent, if every conference went conference only, and didn’t leave a plus-one or plus-two (scenario), then there wouldn’t be any other games available, and we would work out some type of an arrangement with other independent teams, or, maybe other schools that for some reason might have a game available,” Holmoe said.

On limited seating at BYU home games

Holmoe said if the season were to start tomorrow, the number of fans allowed into 63,000-seat LaVell Edwards Stadium would be reduced significantly. BYU has sent out two surveys to season ticket holders to develop various contingency plans.

“We would work through all the various scenarios of who, what groups, what constituencies and the percentage of each (could attend), and where they would sit in the stadium to be safe, with social distancing in mind, with everything and their health in mind, for the people in the stands as well as the people there serving them as staff,” Holmoe said.

He said a lot depends on the advice and allowances for large gatherings that BYU receives from state and local health officials.

On broadcast partner ESPN’s role in helping fill BYU’s schedule

BYU extended its agreement with ESPN last January, and Holmoe said the sports broadcasting giant is involved in helping the Cougars find games.

“They are also a partner of many (other schools and conferences),” he said. “They are also talking to other broadcast companies about how this all fits together, particularly in the fall when you are looking at shortened schedules, maybe reduced number of fans in the stands, if any. They are trying to just see where we are, and I really appreciate it.”

Holmoe said he got a “great” telephone call from a friend at ESPN on Saturday.

“It was a positive conversation knowing that BYU can move forward with these various possibilities we have on our hands right now,” he said.

Spring play — a last resort

Could the entire college football schedule, or a good chunk of it, be moved to the spring when COVID-19 has, hopefully, subsided? Again, Holmoe refuses to rule it out.

“What I am hearing, and what I am reading, is that it is the last resort,” he said. “And I think you are seeing with the SEC and the ACC and the Big 12, they want to play football. They are doing everything they can to play a football season this year. … it is only going to be a couple of weeks (to decide), and then that window is going to close. But if that window closes, they will have to consider how to do it in the spring. We are not working on that. We have taken a few opportunities to look and see how that would be, but it is very, very complicated. … It would be difficult, but we would do it if that were the way we were told to go.”