PROVO — As the BYU football program enters its third year of independence, athletic director Tom Holmoe continues working diligently to plan for the future.
Among other things, Holmoe is negotiating a contract extension for coach Bronco Mendenhall, he is looking to schedule football games with archrival Utah, and he is in the process of solidifying bowl game destinations.
During an hour-long, informal question-and-answer session Wednesday afternoon at BYU's Legacy Hall, Holmoe fielded a host of questions from reporters about the state of the Cougar athletic department.
Not surprisingly, most of the questions revolved around the football program, and in particular, about Mendenhall's contract situation.
Mendenhall has expressed his desire to the school's administration to remain in his position as head coach, but no agreement has been reached. Mendenhall's current contract expires on Dec. 31.
"The conversation and communication is ongoing," Holmoe said. "I look to have this done in the near future … For me, I think (Mendenhall has) done a great job here at BYU. There's always going to be ups and downs in your program. He's done a really good job for us and we're working on a contract to extend."
Is there a timetable for getting a deal finished?
"It will get done when it gets done," Holmoe said. "To put a timeline on it, that is not right. But I think any coach would prefer to have that done before the games start."
The Cougars open the 2013 season at Virginia on Aug. 31.
As for the series with Utah, which will take a two-year hiatus after the two teams meet on Sept. 21, Holmoe said that he and Utah athletic director Chris Hill "are in discussions" and he's optimistic that the series will resume on a long-term basis.
"It's going to happen. I don't think there's a question it will happen," Holmoe said. "It is possible that on an odd year we have to take a year off. I want to play, Bronco wants to play. I know Chris wants to play. We wouldn't be having discussions if they didn't want to get it done."
The two teams are scheduled to meet in 2016, but, for now, nothing beyond that.
Then there's BYU's other in-state rival, Utah State. Holmoe said that he would "love to play that game in November" and would entertain the possibility of a home-and-home deal with the Aggies in the future. Traditionally, the BYU-USU game has been played the same weekend as October LDS General Conference.
Asked about the announced six-game series with Notre Dame that started last year and will continue this season, Holmoe said that contract remains in place and no changes have been made to it. The Fighting Irish agreed to play two games in Provo, but those have not been scheduled. Holmoe said that after the Cougars visit South Bend on Nov. 23, the next time the two teams play could be years down the road.
When it comes to postseason football, BYU is set to play in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco in December, if the Cougars are bowl eligible. Holmoe said he is in talks with various bowls about future deals.
"As an independent, one thing we want to do is get out and give access to our fans and show the country BYU Cougar football," he explained. "We've played in four (different) bowl games in four years. I'd like to do that in the future … I could see possibly playing one or two bowl games maybe for two years or three, or we could play in six different bowls."
Holmoe said announcements about bowl contracts could be made in the coming months.
In addition, Holmoe has looked into playing regular-season games at overseas venues. In fact, he approached the military academies about the possibility of staging games on foreign soil, near military bases, but there's been no interest on behalf of the military academies in doing that at this point.
Other issues and topics that Holmoe addressed with reporters Wednesday:
Holmoe said that independence has been good for BYU. "The exposure has been better than I thought it would be … I think we just followed the plan. We knew what we wanted, and we went for it."
What is Holmoe's reasonable expectation for the BYU football team this fall, considering that the Cougars will be facing possibly their toughest schedule ever? "My expectation is that they go out and play great ball," Holmoe said. "I don't think it's right to say a number, how many wins we'll have. But if you look at them play and it looks good and it feels good, then it is good."
Holmoe said it was Mendenhall's idea to re-hire offensive coordinator Robert Anae, and to overhaul the offensive coaching staff. "He has a lot of faith in Robert," Holmoe said, adding, "Bronco runs the program."
On a basketball note, Holmoe confirmed that the school is looking preliminarily at building a new basketball practice facility. However, Holmoe said, it's not something that the school's administration has approved. Holmoe did acknowledge that such a facility is "important for our future."
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