Kristin Murphy,
FILE: BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe talks about working with LaVell Edwards during BYU Football Media Day at BYU Broadcasting in Provo on Friday, June 23, 2017.
I feel good about the future. We’re making plans for the future. If you’ve been on campus and looked around at our facilities, (you see) we’re planning for the future. —BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe

PROVO — Just days before college football’s opening kickoff, BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe spent Wednesday talking Cougar sports with fans participating in the school’s annual education week.

Holmoe fielded an array of queries, ranging from the school’s long-term conference membership goals to the immediate future of linebacker Francis Bernard. Here are a few of the highlights:

Potential future conference affiliations?

It’s no secret, he said, that BYU wants in on the financial and competitive opportunities afforded Power 5 conference schools. The gap between P5 schools and other college athletic programs continues to widen.

“We would like to be able to participate in one of those conferences,” he said. “We’ve pursued that in years past. Right now, I think that is quiet. Every once in a while something will pop up and some athletic director or commissioner will say something that grabs the attention of the country for a day or two and then it goes away.

“Our ears are always perked up, listening for opportunities. As I’ve said all along, until that time comes, the best thing we can do is to prepare ourselves to be the best (program) we can be to make a good name for ourselves and to represent the university and the (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) as best we can.”

The college future of linebacker Francis Bernard?

“He’s a great kid,” said Holmoe. “We love him. He’s one of our guys that have played very well for us. He’s not going to play for us this year. I think he’s still in the process of making that decision” regarding his future.

The future of BYU athletics?

“I feel good about the future. We’re making plans for the future. If you’ve been on campus and looked around at our facilities, (you see) we’re planning for the future.

“If we didn’t think we were going to be here we wouldn’t have spent a lot of money — millions of dollars — on a new baseball field, a new softball field, a new soccer field, a new basketball practice facility, a new pool … We wouldn’t have done that if we didn’t think we were going full speed ahead.

“I’m not going to go tiptoeing into the future … we’re going to go hard.”

Will Notre Dame appear on a future football schedule?

“They owe us a game,” he acknowledged.

There have been early discussions about scheduling a game. “I feel a little better about it than I did last year, and we’ll pursue that.”

Any concerns about a deep-pocketed program luring football coach Kalani Sitake away from BYU following, say, a successful 2017 season?

Holmoe replied his immediate, primary concern for Sitake and his team is in regard to Saturday’s game against Portland State.

“If we lose that game, you’ll want to fire him,” he said, drawing laughs from the audience.

Thoughts on quarterback Tanner Mangum’s choice to publicly discuss his struggles with mild depression and anxiety.

“It was a brave thing. It was an impressive thing.”

People from across the country have reached out to Mangum to thank him for opening up a discussion on mental health issues.

BYU, he added, has made it a priority to care for the mental health needs of all its students — including Cougar athletes — as they deal with their day-to-day pressures.

“It is impressive for me to see young, vibrant kids that struggle with issues overcome challenges and become great. They are awesome.”

Preventing/managing concussions?

Holmoe said the school spends millions of dollars caring for their athletes’ health — including concussion care.

An athlete’s decision to return to the playing field, he added, is not made by a team coach. “We have done everything we can to separate the coaches from those decisions.”

BYU’s bowl situation/scenario?

The school continues to work with ESPN on possible bowl games — the rest is up to the football team and its performance in the fast-approaching season.

“It will depend upon how we do and how we play.”

jswensen@deseretnews.com