BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe, during an hour-long discussion with reporters Wednesday, contradicted a statement made by Bronco Mendenhall during his last year at BYU. If anything, it illustrates how BYU’s challenges as an independent have changed during the past 24 months.
When asked if independence was sustainable three years ago, Mendenhall told media members no, it was not.
This week, Holmoe was asked the same question. He kept it simple: Yes.
This doesn’t mean that BYU’s challenges aren’t huge, or that it doesn’t miss out on Power 5 money. It also doesn't mean they don't miss having the comfort of a built-in schedule or games with rivalry/continuity flavor (with the exception of playing Utah, Utah State and Boise State every year). Nor does it mean the Cougars couldn't greatly benefit from a season-long association with a league and the competition it gives.
So, why would Holmoe say independence is sustainable?
Well, he didn’t elaborate, but the past 60 days does give a partial answer. BYU did something many observers believed it could not do. It hired an experienced coaching staff, many with great reputations and successes, accumulating nearly nine decades of experience on offense that included three proven offensive coordinators. And it paid for it.
Ding, ding, ding.
That gave Holmoe more confidence that BYU could do more in the cash cow arena of football. Mendenhall never had the resources to hire like Sitake did this past month. That is progress.
This is a significant development in the program. BYU doesn’t talk numbers or salaries, and BYU salaries are not posted on spreadsheets readily available like that on USA Today’s comparison of college assistant coach salaries.
But consider that BYU made the hires of Jeff Grimes from the SEC and Aaron Roderick with his Pac-12 experience, while “still” on the hook for paying Ty Detmer, Mike Empey, Reno Mahe and Ben Cahoon, who are expected to be paid for at least the next five months.
That takes some coin. Almost Power 5 kind of money. At least it is in the ballpark and far more competitive.
That, in Holmoe’s unspoken explanation, may be part of why he called independence sustainable when Mendenhall said it was not just three years ago.