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Provo • The past few months have been among the busiest in BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe's 11-year tenure at the school. Most notably, he replaced longtime football coach Bronco Mendenhall with former Cougar Kalani Sitake, continued to serve on the NCAA men's basketball tournament selection committee, and worked to position BYU as an attractive candidate in case a Power 5 conference decides to expand.
Holmoe spoke at length about all of those topics and more on Friday in his semiannual roundtable discussion with local media members, saying that BYU had a good year on the playing fields and courts in 2015, a credit to its athletes and coaches.
"I think that one of the things that was impressive to me was we had a great financial year this past year," he said. "And that's a tribute to our fans, getting behind our teams, and to the people who raise money, and to our connections with ESPN and such.
"So, I am just feeling very fortunate that, for a year, we made a jump," he continued. "Some people went backwards, and we went forward. We will push the envelope and do what we can to stay there, and do what we need to do to [keep] a competitive advantage. Most of our competitive advantage isn't going to be with money. Our advantage is in other areas human capital. I love that. I think that's a cool thing. There are a lot of people out there with money that can't do anything."
Of course, whenever Holmoe speaks publicly, BYU fans want to know the latest on his efforts to get BYU into the Big 12. He was less direct about expressing that desire on Friday than he has been in past Q&A sessions, but again acknowledged that BYU's current position as an independent in football isn't sustainable in the long term.
"You can see through legislation, and financial contracts and stuff, that there is a divide in the resources," he said, noting a divide exists even among big conferences.
Holmoe said he continues to monitor conference expansion talks, but prefers to keep any and all discussions with officials from the Big 12 private and confidential.
"As far as BYU, it is important for us to be successful and stick to what we do best, and that is try to build great championship teams and provide a great football program. We have done it for a long time, and we plan to keep on doing it, make ourselves as attractive as we can," Holmoe said. "Time is going to tell. This is something that I've had to be patient with. I think sometimes people think that I am not really involved in this. I am involved in this up to my eyeballs."
Asked if BYU is closer to a Big 12 invite, or further, than a year ago, Holmoe declined to give any specifics.
"BYU has chosen to play our role in this privately. It is the way we do our business. … I feel we are doing it the right way," he said. "We are in a conference, all our other teams, the West Coast Conference, and it is our responsibility to be a good partner in that conference and do the best we can to support ourselves and them. We are not going to talk publicly about what our plans are, or what our discussions are."
• Thursday, BYU announced that Sitake has completed his coaching staff. Holmoe said he is "happy with the staff" and that the new coach made all the hiring decisions with a little bit of input from the AD, a former head coach at California. He downplayed the lack of college coaching experience of some of the assistants, including offensive coordinator Ty Detmer and running backs coach Reno Mahe.
"To me, experience is important, but this is a unique situation at BYU, where I think there are other factors that are as important as college football [coaching] experience," he said.
Holmoe did say that this group of coaches is being paid more, collectively, than the last group.
"We had some financial resources that went up, and we have added a couple people to the staff, just for support," he said.
• Holmoe chose his words carefully when asked about Utah's recent decision to cancel this coming December's contracted basketball game against BYU, saying "it is probably best to just not really talk about it very much, let it go for a little bit."
He called it a "really big distraction" for both teams and coaching staffs right now as they make runs for NCAA Tournament bids, but reiterated a tweet he made when the news broke that he believes the game should be played.
"I don't know if we can get the game back next year, but we will get it back," he said.
• Holmoe said he "would do it again" when asked if the decision to let Mendenhall coach in the Las Vegas Bowl was the right one after the Cougars lost 35-28 to Utah after falling behind 35-0 in the first quarter.
"Bronco and I, for 11 years, we were in the trenches together, literally," he said. "I am not going to throw that away. I didn't do that to protect him. I did it because I thought it was best for BYU. … If you look at the game itself, I was wondering if I had made the right decision at the end of the first quarter."
• Holmoe acknowledged that "perception is important" and that some ugly incidents involving BYU athletes in recent football and basketball games may be tarnishing the school's image.
"I realize that there have been a few incidents over the past couple of years that haven't shined a great light on us," he said. "And really, as the athletic director, I need to be accountable for each incident. And we do [hold themselves accountable]."
• Holmoe said he is being patient with Notre Dame, which owes BYU a football game after the Cougars played twice in South Bend, because it is Notre Dame, a helpful partner in BYU's independence.
"I would say that the second two-for-one [deal] is off the table, but we do, definitely, need to clear up the first contract," he said.
Read more of Holmoe's comments from Friday's discussion on Jay Drew's BYU sports blog • sltrib.com/blogs/byusports.