PROVO — While attending West Coast Conference basketball media day festivities Monday in Los Angeles, BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe had football on his mind.
Of course, football is never far from his mind.
Holmoe enjoyed chatting with the league's basketball coaches and other administrators at the event, but he is dealing with recent setbacks involving the 2013 football schedule.
"It's not even done," Holmoe told the Deseret News at the WCC meetings. "I've been working on games today."
Two contests that the Cougars were planning on for next season, including one that was already contracted, have fallen through recently, he said.
"I see teams that schedule games for 2020 and 2021. I'm like, 'Oh my goodness, would that be nice?' I've got to get the 2013 schedule done."
Such is the life of an athletic director of an independent football program — particularly at BYU.
"There are some things that have changed in the schedule," he said. "When you're an independent, things change."
Change seems to be the operative word.
The Cougar football team, which is idle this week, has posted a lackluster 5-4 record this season — including three losses by a combined total of seven points. BYU has three games against Western Athletic Conference opponents remaining and needs one more victory to become bowl-eligible. The Cougars are slated to play in the Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego — with former Mountain West Conference rival San Diego State a likely opponent.
Naturally, Holmoe was relieved after BYU pounded Georgia Tech, 41-17, last weekend in Atlanta, but he acknowledged that it's been difficult to watch this season unfold.
"It takes its toll on everyone," Holmoe said. "It's frustrating, no more so than for the coaches and players. And the fans are a big part of what we're doing. They're frustrated that we lost games that we were in, and could have won, in ways that we normally don't lose games."
Next year's schedule has been billed as the toughest in school history. And, as a result of the Cougars' performance in 2012, Holmoe said he expects some shakeups in the football program before 2013.
"This is a team that, I think the expectations were high. Sometimes our media (BYU media relations) and the local media, in an effort to pub the season, some players and some units on our team were made to look better than they really were," Holmoe said. "The expectations were really, really high with a pretty competitive schedule. And we certainly didn't live up to that.
"I want to be a really great team. I'm a football guy, but I don't think there was a time when I thought, 'We're going to win the national championship this year.' You could see some of our troubles early. We've addressed some of them, but some of them aren't going to change this year. It's been an eye-opening experience for some of our players and coaches to be able to see and say, 'Oh, OK, that's what we need to do.' I think there will be some changes that take place between this year and next year that will help our team in many ways, in different aspects, from technical details to things that will be noticeable. It will be good."
Those changes could impact the coaching staff, and Holmoe said that's something he and coach Bronco Mendenhall will address when the season ends. Clearly, there have been problems on the offensive side of the ball this year. Holmoe added that there have been some chemistry issues on the staff, adding that being successful isn't just about talent. "There are intangibles in football," he said.
Quarterback Taysom Hill, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in the final seconds of the win over Utah State, is expected to be the Cougar starter next fall. One of BYU's opponents in 2013, for the second straight year, will be Notre Dame. The Cougars and Fighting Irish will meet again in South Bend.
The two teams agreed to a six-game series in 2010. After next year, no games have been officially announced. "We might take a big break until we play them again," Holmoe said.
However, Holmoe is optimistic that the four other games of the series against Notre Dame — including two in Provo — will be played.
"I think it's a really good series for Notre Dame because if you look at the years we're scheduled to play them, they need games," he said. "They're an independent school like us."
But what about the Irish's recent announcement that they will soon start playing five Atlantic Coast Conference opponents every year?
"They still need seven more games," Holmoe said. "They have some games that they traditionally play. But we're playing them two-for-one, which is a good deal for them. And it's a good game. Going back there this year and playing them strong, we got good feedback from Notre Dame and their administration and staff. There's good respect between their players and our players. It's a good matchup between schools. Notre Dame doesn't play just anybody. They play schools that they feel are good academic schools and schools that stand for something ... Who knows what's going to happen between now and then? I take them a year at a time."
Meanwhile, Holmoe said he has been inundated with positive reaction from BYU fans as a result of scheduling Notre Dame as well as other high-profile opponents.
"That part of independence is by far the most rewarding, outside of exposure. We get great exposure. When we travel to South Bend or Atlanta or Ole Miss, the fans are so grateful. You reach a part of the country, and a part of our fan base, that doesn't get to see us play live. I had literally 50 or 60 people come up to me before and after the game at Notre Dame that said, 'Please come back.' I want to. I think it's great for our program."
For now, Holmoe is back to work, trying to line up opponents for the 2013 season. What the rest of that year's schedule — and BYU's football program — will look like by then is anybody's guess.
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