Commentary: BYU's Tom Holmoe deserves a hat tip for scheduling Stanford, among others

By Lafe Peavler

For the Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 8 2013 7:40 p.m. MDT

BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe poses for a photo at LaVell Edwards Stadium Thursday, May 12, 2011.

Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News

PROVO — Being an athletic director is largely a thankless job. When things go well, most of the attention and credit goes to the head football and basketball coaches. However, when things go poorly across teams, the athletic director's seat becomes just as hot, if not hotter, as anybody else's.

ADs are like referees. Nobody cares about them until something goes seriously wrong. It's a pity they often don't get the credit and praise they deserve.

But if any athletic director deserves a hat tip for going above and beyond the line of duty, it's BYU’s Tom Holmoe. That's particularly true in light of BYU's four-game scheduling agreement with Stanford.

It's incredible considering what BYU has been through over the last three years.

Holmoe's job became much more difficult the day that BYU decided to say farewell to the Mountain West and become an independent. After all, he went from scheduling four non-conference games to putting together the entire slate.

And it's easy to forget how difficult this transition to independence started.

Rewind to 2010, just after Utah accepted its invitation to join the newly branded Pac-12. While the Utes are BYU's biggest rival on the gridiron, hardwood and every other playing surface, Utah was BYU's best friend in the conference as both fought to fight a bad TV deal.

Once Utah left, there was nothing tying BYU to the MWC. So, BYU prepared its own bold move to go independent in football while placing all the rest of its sports back into the WAC. Furthermore, the Cougars would help ease their scheduling difficulties with a scheduling agreement with the WAC. Sources at the Deseret News called this a "done deal."

But the MWC wasn't about to take this sitting down.

The conference suddenly invited Fresno State and Nevada, two of the WAC's strongest remaining programs. Later, the Mountain West would take San Jose State and Utah State as well, leaving the WAC without sufficient football programs to continue as a FBS conference.

At any rate, MWC commissioner Craig Thompson torpedoed any chance of the WAC getting BYU and in the process destroyed the WAC as we know it. That left Holmoe and BYU in a precarious position.

Would the Cougars remain in the Mountain West after Thompson's stunt? Where would BYU's solid basketball and other athletic programs compete? How could Holmoe schedule enough big-time teams to keep the fans happy while also keeping the schedule manageable?

Holmoe stepped up to the challenge. BYU's football program went independent as planned, the basketball program joined the West Coast Conference and all of BYU's other sports found a home. Now all Holmoe had to worry about was scheduling.

No pressure.

In the short term, Holmoe signed a scheduling agreement with what was left of the WAC to fill BYU's 2011 and 2012 schedules. After all, putting together a decent schedule without that agreement would have been impossible. While playing San Jose State, Idaho, New Mexico State and Hawaii in 2011 and 2012 wasn't the most exciting thing in the world for the fans, it filled an immediate critical need for opponents.

But playing a bunch of WAC teams would get old fast for BYU's fan base. If independence was going to work, the Cougars needed big-time teams to not only schedule them on the road, but travel to Provo as well.

Furthermore, BYU is in a difficult position as it tries to schedule big-name opponents. BYU isn't a cupcake team that others can schedule and count on an easy victory. It certainly isn't the kind of program that needs to throw itself at a top-ranked team, get trounced and collect a big paycheck the way that many FCS and bottom-tier FBS teams do.

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