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Turbo mode: Tom Holmoe

Published: Saturday, June 11 2005 5:50 p.m. MDT

BYU Athletic Director Tom Holmoe takes a break at Lavell Edwards Stadium on the BYU campus.

Jason Olson, Deseret Morning News

One of these mornings, Tom Holmoe will wake up from a good night's sleep. But not while he's got work to do as BYU's athletic director — his mind won't shut down; it grinds on like gears in a clock. Even while his body mimics a form of suspended animation, at night, his brain is in turbo mode.

Agendas, task lists, speeches, interviews, appointments, reports, plans, goals, ideas; they all flow like lava and never stop.

Holmoe has been the Cougar athletic director for three months. It's too early to tell what his mark will be. But what makes Tom Holmoe tick?

In simple terms, Holmoe is a driven man, a people person, a guy who never stops working regardless of the task or hour.

It remains to be seen if Holmoe's game plan, Holmoe's goals, Holmoe's vision and the direction of BYU's athletic department will pay dividends. It still isn't clear if tackling a list of 90 suggestions from an outside study (part of Holmoe's mandate from administrators the past eight months) will make a difference, or if the school really has given this new athletic director the reins.

If there is success, however, Holmoe's style is to sit back and let others receive the credit. If it doesn't come, he'll stand up and take the heat.

Already Holmoe's shared his vision of recruiting with head football coach Bronco Mendenhall.

That started before he officially got the AD job.

People recognized Holmoe as an outstanding recruiter at Cal-Berkeley. Holmoe had a formula. He won't share it publicly for print, not a word. If any part of his suggestions take hold at BYU, it is Holmoe's modus operandi for it to quietly become Mendenhall's plan and philosophy.

A dozen years ago, Brent Eads, publisher of Student Sports Magazine in Anaheim, Calif., had lunch with Holmoe when he got the Cal job as head football coach.

"I came out of our meeting ready to sign up myself and go to battle with and for him," Eads said. "His energy, enthusiasm and passion are unbelievable. It's comparable to what you see with Pete Carroll at USC. It works because it's sincere, and I always thought Tom was the ultimate salesman, the guy you'd want to have in the home closing the deal with recruits.

"At the time, Cal was in the shadow of USC, Washington, Oregon and other Pac-10 programs and Tom got further along with prospects than he probably should have because he is so personable and could relate to athletes. "

But there's the catch. Holmoe now heads BYU's athletics, but at Cal, he couldn't rise out of a quagmire and had a losing record from 1997 to 2001.

"I'll say this," Eads said, "Cal's struggles on the field weren't because of his sales ability, which I think are almost unsurpassed in college football. He is, as the saying goes, the kind of guy who could sell air conditioning to an Eskimo."

Except for a slippery stint at Cal, Holmoe has never been associated with losing. He's rubbed shoulders with the best minds and performers in all of football at every level. These men include LaVell Edwards, Bill Walsh, Joe Montana, Steve Young, Ronnie Lott, Jerry Rice and current USC's Carroll. He has three Super Bowl rings.

Holmoe is a people person, a teacher, philosopher and obsessive observer of human beings. When at Disneyland, he'd rather watch people than go on a ride. In a restaurant, his wife Lori is used to her husband zeroing in on conversations from diners at the next table.

He is a people scientist. All carbon-based life forms are his laboratory.

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