Provo • In a candid and far-ranging discussion on Friday, BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe announced substantial renovations will begin inside the 41-year-old Marriott Center on May 1. Holmoe also said BYU and Utah are still trying to extend their football series beyond 2012 but haven’t contracted any future games yet, and proclaimed that football independence treated the Cougars relatively well their first year. But he shed little light on how long that will last or whether the program will be in a conference within a few years.
Holmoe addressed myriad other issues in the 65-minute round-table chat with reporters, including the importance of the school-owned television network (BYUtv) to the athletic department, his opinion on how potential changes to the Bowl Championship Series will affect BYU, and how BYU fared and is faring in its first season in the West Coast Conference for most sports except football.
But the biggest news concerned the Marriott Center changes. Most notably, the building that houses coach Dave Rose’s highly successful men’s basketball team will go from seating 22,700 to 20,900 as benches on the north side are replaced by chair seats. Also, a new sound system will be installed in the arena, and the men’s and women’s basketball locker rooms will be renovated.
Holmoe acknowledged that many BYU students will not like the change because the student seating section will be moved from mostly center court to behind the west basket. The new seats on the north side — sections 21 to 27 — will be padded and will be blue. Holmoe said plans to construct a basketball practice facility on campus are being discussed and feasibility studies are being conducted, but he couldn’t give a timetable for those.
Other odds and ends from Friday’s media summit:
• Holmoe said talks with Utah athletic director Chris Hill are continuing regarding extending the BYU-Utah football series beyond 2012’s game at Rice-Eccles Stadium, and that as long as the two are talking he is confident agreements can be reached, most likely two games at a time.
• Regarding conference realignment and whether BYU is still a candidate to potentially join the Big 12, Holmoe said that “for the most part, I think [talks] have kind of died down,” but said communication channels are open and BYU is still receptive to giving up football independence if the right opportunity comes along.
“We continue to have discussions, although to say that they are earth-shattering would be wrong,” he said. “We are continuing to try to determine what the best pathways are going to be for BYU in the future.”
Holmoe said BYU would not give up its policy of not playing on Sundays, but might be willing to give up other demands that don’t compromise its mission as an institution sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“I think that all the other topics have been discussed,” he said. “And I think they are all things that can be worked out.”
• Holmoe said BYUtv is not a roadblock to potentially joining another conference and called the network that reportedly reaches 60 million homes an overwhelmingly positive thing for the school.
“I think we have by far the best advantage of any school in the country by having BYUtv,” he said.
• Holmoe said school officials are watching potential changes to the BCS closely, and admitted that the process “scares him,” to some degree.
“Some of their proposals would probably be fine for us, and we could go on as an independent and plays as an independent and get into whatever the series is going to be. But depending on what the entry [requirement] is, into the BCS, could determine whether or not we would need to be affiliated with a conference, sure,” he said.
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A closer look
Highlights of BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe’s Media Summit:
• Renovations to the 41-year-old Marriott Center will begin May 1 and will include upgrades to the locker rooms, a new sound system, and chair seats replacing the benches on north side’s lower bowl.
• Talks with Utah to extend the football series beyond 2012 are still going on, but no contract is in place yet.
• BYU is willing to compromise on some of its demands to get into a major conference, but will never give up its no-Sunday-play stance.
O For more of Holmoe’s comments Friday, and more on the Marriott Center renovations, go to Tribune sports writer Jay Drew’s BYU blog at www.sltrib.com/Blogs/byusports.