Dick Harmon: Is BYU really headed to the Big 12?

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 19 2011 7:39 p.m. MDT

BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

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PROVO — I'd like to throw BYU's Big 12 expansion fatigue-weary fans a bone.

But there's been so many bones thrown around the past month one could make an army of skeletons and march them down University Avenue.

There's been anonymous sources who've had life cycles — birth and death — on the Internet message boards. There's the wave of tweets on Twitter from Big 12 media types who claim to be in the know.

A bone thrown here; another one there. The pile is high.

The latest came last week when BYU's administration finally spoke out on expansion talk, dismissing some rumors while leaving much more to the imagination.

When Tom Holmoe went on BYUtv's pregame broadcast of the Oregon State game in Corvallis, it was a major break of sound in a cathedral of silence from BYU. That speaks volumes.

Holmoe kept to a sliver of simple talking points. Those items were closely crafted, and I believe his boss strictly admonished the athletic director to keep on point. The words he delivered, the answers he gave and the questions he avoided were part of a polished script.

The talking points? BYU hasn't been invited to the Big 12, so nothing was turned down; BYU wants to play with the big boys; negotiations are ongoing; its nice to keep it private; BYU won't speculate; and there is a lot of disinformation floating around.

Holmoe repeated the talking points after members of the Utah media were asked to gather in a press box hallway for an impromptu pre-kickoff press conference. He then finished his media rounds on BYU's flagship radio station, KSL, at the half, keeping to points he'd only be comfortable addressing by design.

When Holmoe broke BYU's silence, BYU's leaders believed they needed to respond. They'd been under extensive scrutiny and much criticism, allowing others to speak for them while appearing to abandon confused and anxious fans.

Reactive or proactive? It was both.

It was the right thing to do. And for many, it was enough to just hear somebody from BYU say something, anything, to publicly acknowledge an issue.

What we didn't hear was a repeat of BYU's August talking points, sent out in response to Texas A&M leaving the Big 12 for the SEC. That script, in case you missed it, had been recycled when media pressed for comment on Big 12 drama. It basically said BYU won't comment on conjecture and speculation and is focused on its independent path and it was a distraction to the football season.

Movement? Perhaps.

Enough to speculate more? Perhaps.

All right, I'll play.

I'll throw a bone. Since I've been bombarded for two months by folks asking what I think will happen in this expansion thing, I'll keep it simple, and I'm not citing "informed sources," the popular cliche of this summer and fall.

BYU will be in the Big 12.

I'll go it one more: It doesn't matter if Missouri goes or stays in the Big 12.

There, it's on me.

Now, for my statement.

The silly thing in all this debate the past 90 days is how many BYU supporters have portrayed Holmoe, his boss, V.P. Kevin Worthen, and his boss, university President Cecil O. Samuelson.

Some say these guys don't understand BYU fans and their collective desire to have their school in a major conference. Nor, some argue, do the LDS Church leaders and board of trustees who oversee BYU.

Hogwash.

Holmoe knows big stages. He's been in Super Bowls, spent blood and treasure at the highest level of the game, right next to Ronnie Lott and George Seifert. It's in his DNA.

Advancement vice president Worthen, one of the brightest men to ever come out of Carbon County, was clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Byron White, a Fulbright Scholar and dean of a law school.

Samuelson is a medical doctor who has held the life of patients in his hands.

These guys know how to weigh the stakes and understand what tips the scales.

For months, they've been battling to deliver something that protects BYU and is in the best long-term interest of its athletic program, student athletes, staff and yes, fans.

Ask any Mountain West Conference president how passionate Samuelson is about protecting BYU's brand. You'd be surprised at the answer, how vehement Samuelson was with issues in the MWC after being misled and even lied to.

I'll simply say, this trio isn't going to repeat that experience in days, weeks or months to come.

Independence or Big 12?

If this trio were to talk more, I'd bet they'd say: If it's worth doing, it's worth doing right.

email: dharmon@desnews.com

twitter: Harmonwrites

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