Provo • BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe intends to keep football coach Bronco Mendenhall around as long as he can, and is cautiously optimistic that the football rivalry with Utah will proceed mostly uninterrupted after it goes on two-year hiatus following this season.
In his annual State of BYU Sports discussion on Wednesday, Holmoe acknowledged he is working on a contract extension — likely for three years — for Mendenhall, whose current contract expires on Dec. 31.
The rivalry’s future is a bit shakier after the teams play on Sept. 21, but Holmoe expressed confidence that Utah athletic director Chris Hill joins him and Mendenhall in wanting the rivalry to proceed uninterrupted once it resumes in 2016.
Yet Holmoe said that the break and uncertainty have made it more difficult to schedule games with Utah beyond 2016 because other options have become available for September, which is the only time the Pac-12 Conference will allow the Utes to play the Cougars.
“But I believe we will get it done,” Holmoe said. “It is hard, though. ... There’s the possibility that we might have a year off here or there. But we wouldn’t be having discussions if [Utah] didn’t want to get it done, too.”
On the subject of rivalries and scheduling, Holmoe said he has not heard a word from Notre Dame about scrapping or altering the six-game deal BYU made with the Irish when it announced its football independence plans three years ago. However, after BYU plays for the second straight year in South Bend on Nov. 23, there will likely be a gap of several years before the independents meet again.
Certainly, Holmoe said, Notre Dame will not be visiting BYU in 2014, as some have hoped. The six-game deal runs through 2020.
Holmoe said BYU would love to move its annual game against in-state rival Utah State to November, when most rivalry games are played, but acknowledged that the current situation with the Mountain West Conference-bound Aggies — playing the Friday before General Conference weekend in early October — works well for both schools.
Regarding Mendenhall, Holmoe said the coach has been re-energized by the shake-up to his offensive coaching staff, and his prospects for the future, and seemingly wants to remain at BYU for the foreseeable future.
“Bronco and I are working on a contract extension. He has a contract that goes through the end of this season,” Holmoe said. “The conversations are ongoing, and we look to have this done in the near future. ... There always ups and downs, but he has done a really good job for us, and we are looking to extend.”
Holmoe said there is no set deadline to get the extension done, but both parties would like to have it done before the 2013 season begins on Aug. 31 at Virginia.
Asked if anything could happen or be said that would keep a contract from being signed and/or offered, Holmoe said: “Not that I can foresee.”
Among other topics discussed Wednesday:
• Holmoe said that it was Mendenhall’s decision to shake up his offensive coaching staff and bring back former offensive coordinator Robert Anae in the same role, thereby demoting and eventually dismissing Brandon Doman. “Bronco brought that [idea] to me,” Holmoe said of the Anae hire. “In most cases, [coaching personnel decisions] is his call. ... But he doesn’t make a decision without consulting me.”
• Holmoe said preliminary planning is being done “behind the scenes” for a new basketball practice facility, but that it is “not something that has been approved” by BYU’s administration or ownership.
• Holmoe said he has had discussion with several bowls — including some that BYU has not appeared in recently — for possible contracts in 2014 and beyond, but nothing has been signed. He said some bowl announcements could come in the next few months.
• The athletic director said he would be in favor of playing “an international football game” on foreign soil, but that he hasn’t come across any other schools that are equally excited about the prospects.
• Regarding BYU’s future in the West Coast Conference for most sports other than football, Holmoe said the school is happy with its current position but always on the watch for potential developments. “I am not actively pursuing a conference spot [for football] now when the answer [previously] has been no,” he said.
Highlights of athletic director Tom Holmoe’s “State of BYU Sports” discussion:
• With coach Bronco Mendenhall’s contract set to expire after the upcoming season, talks for an extension are ongoing and both sides want something done before the season opener Aug. 31.
• BYU wants to continue playing Utah in football after the two-year hiatus in 2014-15, but the break has made it more difficult because other options are becoming available to the Cougars for September games.
BYU BLOG • For more of Jay Drew’s interview with Tom Holmoe, visit sltrib.com/Blogs/byusports