BYU football: Tom Holmoe discusses recruiting, the rivalry, scheduling issues and the 'secret sauce' of success at Education Week

Published: Thursday, Aug. 16 2012 5:00 p.m. MDT

BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe

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PROVO — For BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe, attending his annual Education Week presentation on campus Thursday required him to miss an event that's near and dear to his heart.

"I want you to know it's a big sacrifice to be here today because currently one of the football scrimmages is going on right now (at LaVell Edwards Stadium)," he joked in his opening remarks.

While the team — which opens its second season as an independent in two weeks against Washington State — scrimmaged, Holmoe addressed a large classroom of fans for nearly one hour.

He spoke at length about recruiting successes and failures — from Steve Young to Jake Heaps — and then answered questions from the audience on a wide array of topics, from scheduling ("We'll probably release the 2013 schedule in a month or two"), to BYU's relationship with Utah ("It's strained. … I actually have a really good relationship with their athletic director, Chris Hill"), to the broadcasting contract with ESPN ("ESPN brings us more than we could have ever imagined"), to the chances of Wisconsin playing in Provo ("We're working on things with Wisconsin. … We have a one-game series right now and talks are going on"), to, of course, the latest on possible Big 12 expansion ("There's nothing going on").

But before he started answering questions, Holmoe said at this time of year, the first question fans always ask him is, "How good will the (football) team be?"

Holmoe explained that the difference between winning and losing — in any sport — largely depends on the athletes.

"The secret sauce is our kids. We can't do anything without those kids," he said. "It's really all predicated upon how much they come together. Our teams, just by default, should be really good. BYU is an incredible place to be. There are so many of these student athletes that, from the time they were little children, dream of playing sports at BYU. … We should be good every year. Whether we're better, or our very best, depends on a lot of intangibles. A lot of those intangibles have to do with chemistry and whether the players love each other. I played on many successful teams in my career and the best teams are the ones where the players care about each other. I don't think that's any different in a family, a job or a team. If you care about each other, you have a way better chance for success than if you don't."

Then, Holmoe added, "Believe it or not, at BYU, sometimes there are conflicts."

In recent months, a few high-profile athletes have transferred from BYU, including Heaps, running back Joshua Quezada, and basketball player Damarcus Harrison.

"We lose players on occasion for various reasons, and when we do, it's very difficult," Holmoe said. "We love them, we recruited them and they're part of us. Then there's a breakup, and it's a hard thing. You see it. One of the hard things is, we have to share our breakups with you, every morning over Wheaties."

To illustrate the importance of recruiting, Holmoe asked the audience to shout out a name of a great former BYU athlete. Among those the audience brought up included Steve Young, Ty Detmer, Brandon Doman, Jimmer Fredette and Shawn Bradley. Holmoe talked about the recruitment of each of those former Cougars.

Finally, the audience wanted to know about Heaps, who was regarded as the No. 1 high school quarterback in the country when he arrived at BYU in 2010. Heaps started most of his freshman season, then lost his job midway through the 2011 campaign — he was replaced by Riley Nelson — before transferring to Kansas.

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