At a gathering last Friday, June 24th, with some of the nation's sports editors, BYU Athletic Director Tom Holmoe made some intriguing comments about the future of BYU's athletic program, albeit the meaning of which is certainly, by intention, vague.
Amidst Cougar fan frustration that they have not yet been elevated to the BCS conference level, Mr. Holmoe stated that following the recent event of conference expansion, "Things may settle for a little bit, but there's opportunities—great opportunities for BYU that did not exist last week."
Holmoe continued, ""I don't want people to think that we're just casually sitting back with a laissez-faire attitude. Believe me, there are more people [who] are energized about BYU now than there have been since I've been there. I think that, in meeting today with very high-up officials, we will do what's in the best interest of BYU. We'll make the most out of this situation, but we won't change. We're not going to change. We don't necessarily know exactly what will happen, but hey, Utah didn't know until the day before they got invited (to the PAC-10)."
The interview, with quotes originally produced in the Deseret News by writer Brad Rock, has stirred the pot with BYU fans.
Tom Holmoe has not been the sort to seek media attention. In fact, during the immediate period following the invitation of BYU's rival, Utah, into the PAC-10 conference, Holmoe and the BYU Athletic Department have been rather silent.
These recent comments give opportunity for BYU fans to explore all kinds of interpretations, but do not confirm what exactly has transpired.
It would be fair to surmise that if Holmoe was without any solid understanding that BYU indeed had new avenues to pursue, that Cougar fans everywhere would be set up for a new round of disappointment. In fact, given the most recent expansion events, one would figure that, all things being equal, BYU's Athletic Department would be hoping to quell speculation about BYU's status rather than breathing new life into the fans' hopes.
My observation with Tom Holmoe is that he is not a man prone to being glib. He chooses his words carefully and he knew beforehand exactly how his words would be taken.
The flames of speculation have been fanned.
Note, however, that in the interview he made no promises. He only was stating that some doors were opening and that BYU had a chance at things that were not previously available to the institution.
Further defining his comments he said, "It's a good check for us right now. There's a lot of work for us to do.... In this time frame, we have our allegiances. BYU has certain allegiances, and BYU has lived up to them, and now we have opportunities that didn't exist in the past."
He qualified the allusion to these oportunities: "But our identity's not going to change. It doesn't matter if we're in the Pac-10, the Big Ten, the Mountain West Conference or independent; it doesn't matter. We are BYU. We will always be BYU. We will never change. We're NOT in conferences because of who we are."
The concept that these opportunities are new and previously unavailable to the Cougars only a week ago is the most captivating portion of Holmoe's statements. He references Utah's invitation to the PAC-10 giving some credence to the notion that these opportunities are related to a change in conference alignment.
Speculation appeared, on BYU fan blogs and boards, that during the Big 12 meetings held a week ago, Holmoe had a flight to Dallas. Before Holmoe's comments were published in Utah's local media, an undercurrent of excitement was brewing that BYU was privately meeting with Big 12 officials.
The Commissioner of the Big 12 Conference, Dan Beebe's, comments following those meetings appear to lend a different perspective: "As I have stated previously, there is no interest in expansion, and it was not a consideration at this gathering."
Conference expansion has never been the most transparent venture, however.
Perhaps there is some relationship here to Holmoe's comment about the fact that things may settle a bit first.
Could Holmoe have been refering to some other new conference arrangement? A brand new conference? Some merger?
There are no concrete leads to follow here, so there isn't much value in extended speculation. Yet, it is interesting that Holmoe references "allegiances." When asked whether BYU, as Brad Rock, puts it, "is calling in some markers," Holmoe declines to confirm one way or the other. He states: "I'm not saying, but we're excited about the future."
The concept that the Mountain West Conference may soon have access to a BCS automatic bid doesn't seem to qualify for what Holmoe is talking about. That possibility regarding the future certainly existed before last week.
Independence has never gained much ground in the past with BYU's administration. Recently, former AD Rondo Felberg was quoted as saying, "Even Notre Dame, with all of its history and all of its strengths, financially and otherwise, couldn't do it. They're only independent in football, and that's sort of a historical accident that they were able to create that situation. I don't think it will ever be duplicated anywhere else. It doesn't make sense. The scheduling complexities would overwhelm you. People who say BYU should go independent are naïve."
Would the possiblity that BYU is now considering independence only in football be what Holmoe is talking about? Wouldn't seem to have much to do with allegiances outside of BYU, would it? This too doesn't seem to qualify.
Whatever it is that Holmoe is referring to, he certainly has a captive BYU fan base waiting for further elucidation.