BYU sports: Athletic director Tom Holmoe entertains, informs fans at BYU's Education Week

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 21 2013 7:05 p.m. MDT

BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe

Kylea Knecht, BYU

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PROVO — Just as he does every year, BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe addressed about 200 Cougar fans at the school’s Education Week on Wednesday.

He knows why the fans come.

“This is not a lecture. Some people gave me feedback that they just want to know information, and not hear a spiritual talk,” Holmoe told the audience at the beginning of his speech. “I’ll try to leave some time for some Q-and-A at the end, which is always the most entertaining part of the show.”

True to his word, Holmoe did field questions from the fans. Somewhat surprisingly, there were no questions about the controversy surrounding football coach Bronco Mendenhall’s short-lived “Tradition, Spirit, Honor” jerseys idea.

During the 45-minute presentation, Holmoe was candid, insightful and, at times, humorous.

Holmoe reiterated that he likes BYU’s flexible position as a football independent should the landscape of college football shift again. “Right now, being able to jump is a good spot to be,” he said.

He talked about the personalities and achievements of athletes like Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah, Kyle Van Noy, Cody Hoffman and Tyler Haws, and confirmed that former quarterback Jim McMahon is taking classes again, which could pave the way for him to be inducted into the school’s hall of fame.

Here are some of the highlights of Holmoe’s remarks:

— About Ansah, who was selected No. 5 overall in last April’s National Football League draft, Holmoe said, “If you don’t know who Ziggy is, you don’t read the papers. This is an incredible story. … He tried out for the basketball team twice. (Basketball coach) Dave Rose cut him twice. Dave hates it when people say that.”

Then, Holmoe joked, “I’m not going to let Bronco off the hook that easily, either. In Ziggy’s senior year, he didn’t start the first part of the year — and he’s the fifth pick of the draft. So you try to identify talent — what’s going on? Let’s just say he’s a late bloomer.”

— Holmoe said the three most talked about Mormon athletes in the world this past year were Ansah; Manti Te’o, who played at Notre Dame and is now in the NFL; and Jabari Parker, the Chicago prep basketball star who’s going to play at Duke this season.

“Probably three of the most prominent LDS athletes in the country are all of ethnicity. I think that’s special. I really do,” Holmoe said. “I think it’s amazing that 10 or 15 or 20 years ago, you wouldn’t have seen LDS athletes that were African-American, Hispanic. Now we have all kinds of fantastic ethnicity in our church. And it’s great for our athletic department.”

— On a couple of occasions, Holmoe referred to Haws, a Cougar guard, as “a special kid.” Haws led the West Coast Conference in scoring just months after returning home from an LDS mission to the Philippines.

“I think it’s a miracle because we have a lot of student-athletes that come back from missions and they’re no good for a year,” Holmoe said. “It’s all right. Their priority is to go on a mission. … This year, he’s going to be much better.”

Holmoe added that when Haws was representing Team USA at the World University Games in Russia, his teammates “asked (him) a million questions” because Haws is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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