This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Suddenly, athletic director Tom Holmoe and the BYU Cougars are accessible, available and agreeable.
The Big 12's move toward expansion is bringing out BYU's best attributes or that's the goal, anyway. Holmoe's effort to fight the perception that the school is difficult to deal with is trending toward an all-out campaign, and that's healthy.
The Cougars have a good story to tell in football and other sports, and Holmoe's newfound aggressiveness in broadcasting the message is refreshing, as opposed to seeming desperate. He's a sharp, engaging guy, although most of the world would never know that, due to his infrequent interviews.
The Big 12's study of expansion coincides with Holmoe's ambitious 2016 football schedule, which becomes even more interesting. The conference's timetable is unknown, but assuming the evaluation of schools will extend into the football season, that's when BYU really can make a statement.
BYU deserves Power 5 membership, judging by its football success and the interest the program has generated in 40-plus years. Of course, every performance subject to updating.
If the Cougars can thrive or merely survive against a schedule of three Pac-12 teams, followed by West Virginia of the Big 12 and then the likes of Michigan State, Mississippi State and expansion rival Cincinnati, they'll improve their case. They also could hurt themselves, obviously. This already was a risk/reward season, and that's even more true now.
BYU is being uncharacteristically bold about the Big 12. Remember when former football coach Bronco Mendenhall spoke two years ago about wanting to join the conference? That was revolutionary, coming from this campus. But now, Holmoe is treating this opportunity exactly as he should. He's promoting his product, and it's a good one.
Compared to the rest of the field being evaluated by the Big 12, BYU's football program is the clear winner. The Cougars have a national brand, a built-in church following in every region of the country and an established tradition of entertaining, winning football.
Holmoe is being shrewd in tackling the issues that might hold back BYU in this process that brings all kinds of elements into play. The latest twist is Texas administrators' endorsement of the University of Houston, which seemed crazy until the Austin American-Statesman connected the dots of UT's plans for a satellite campus in Houston, which UH otherwise may have fought. That's another example of why Big 12 expansion involves more than merely comparing candidates.
Trying to read these people's minds requires knowing what's in it for them.
The biggest variable is whether the conference adds two or four schools. If Houston is in, because Texas always gets its way, is BYU the second pick? Or would Cincinnati or Connecticut fit the Big 12's geography better?
That's where Holmoe is being clever, promoting the Cougars' ability to stay up late and play. It's true. The late-night kickoffs that I abhor mainly because of newspaper printing deadlines, not just old age are now a selling point, giving the Big 12 another television window. By saying BYU would be willing to join the conference as a football-only member and accept a phase-in period of revenue sharing, Holmoe is proving the school can play along. In one interview, he willingly addressed the Honor Code's treatment of sexual assault victims, citing BYU's re-evaluation of the system.
The Big 12 can invent all kinds of reasons to exclude BYU, but Holmoe's counter-arguments are solid. The school's prohibition of Sunday play should not be a deal-breaker, nor should any other factor if the conference wants a strong, contributing partner in football and other sports, presumably.
During the school's five years of football independence, BYU fans have agonized about whether the Big 12 ever would expand. Now that it's apparently happening, the potential exists for a huge letdown, followed by questions about the program's future.
So they're enduring this selection process by hanging on every word that comes out, and that's a heavy volume of discussion in this social media era.
The good news is some of the talk actually is coming from BYU itself, with a good message to be shared.