BYU remains optimistic despite life as football independent

PROVO, Utah (AP) Life goes on as a football independent at BYU after the Big 12 decided against expansion in October.

Athletic director Tom Holmoe said there was no bitterness toward the conference after months of expansion talk and presentations from universities led to the league not accepting any new members. The school, however, still wants to join one of the Power 5 conferences.

”I was disappointed and frustrated for about two or three days, and then you have to just turn the page and move on,” Holmoe said Wednesday, his first meeting with the media since the Big 12 announcement last fall. ”It was frustrating because I thought that it was really close. I really believed that we had a great chance. I speak to the (athletic directors) in the conference and they’re really matter-of-fact about the business part of it and the discussion and what they wanted. I get that.

”I just think the information that came out after they got into the process, they just made a business decision … to stop and not do it. I don’t think they misled us, but they changed direction once they started.”

BYU has moved on, but there is no clear direction of where it is going in regards to joining a conference. None of the other Power 5 leagues have publicly discussed expansion recently and Holmoe doesn’t think it will come up until the next time television contracts are being negotiated. He didn’t rule out the possibility of returning to a non-Power 5 conference for football, but said BYU is happy with where the program is now.

”We’re a strong school and the things that we’re doing are right,” Holmoe said. ”But we would always like to be part of a P5. … But it didn’t happen for a number of reasons. You could ask me why I think it does and it would be one of a lot of opinions. You can measure it however you want, but I feel really confident about our programs and where we are and what we can do. We’ll just have to do it in this space, not the space that we desired.”

BYU has been an atypical independent. The football program won a national title in 1984 and produced a Heisman Trophy winner in Ty Detmer, but doesn’t have the respect of a program like Notre Dame.

Holmoe has worked to construct challenging schedules where it faces several Power 5 teams each year. But without a conference schedule and championship to play for, it’s difficult to reach the College Football Playoff without going undefeated. Then there’s not a ton to play for after a loss or two. BYU also has to negotiate its own bowl-game deals because there is no conference affiliation.

There’s also the issue of money. BYU carries itself as a Power 5 athletic department without the financial benefits of being in one.

BYU’s television contract with ESPN doesn’t compare to what the program would get from Power 5 membership. The Big 12 paid out $30.2 million to each of its members last year, a record amount and third-most among Power 5 conferences. Its current TV contract is for $2.6 billion and runs through 2024-25.

Holmoe applauded donors for recently stepping up ”in a big way,” but acknowledged it’s challenging keeping that up year-in and year-out. He said they just have to do the best they can with what they have.

”There’s ways to be successful other than money,” Holmoe added.

BYU and its fans will have to be patient moving forward. Holmoe said they’ll do everything they can to be selected next time, but no one knows when that will be. The pitch to the Big 12 gave BYU the opportunity to look at itself in the mirror and Holmoe was happy with most of what he saw.

”We compete like a Power 5 school not in a Power 5 conference,” Holmoe said.

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