BYU AD Tom Holmoe: Men’s basketball program could still face NCAA sanctions after investigation is completed

Cougars' football team will be better, Holmoe tells Education Week gathering during Q&A on campus.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe at Lavell Edwards Stadium in Provo, Thursday, September 21, 2017.

Provo • BYU’s men’s basketball program could still face more NCAA sanctions stemming from star guard Nick Emery’s acceptance of impermissible benefits from a BYU booster, BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe said Wednesday.

After being asked by a member of the audience at his annual BYU Education Week Q&A if the NCAA’s investigation has been finalized, Holmoe said it was in regards to Emery, but not in regards to the program as a whole.

“Everything that has been known has been reported,” Holmoe said. “But there is another part of it that comes up sometime in September, October. There’s another part that has to do with not the individual athlete, but the rest of the program. We will find that out [then] and we will be able to discuss that in October.”

BYU announced on June 14 that Emery will miss the first nine games of the season after the NCAA’s completion of “a review of the reinstatement request” for Emery. Although he has been slowed by various ailments, Emery rejoined the team for summer workouts in late June.

The NCAA investigation looked into reports that BYU booster Brandon Tyndall paid for travel and gave Emery the use of a new car, The Salt Lake Tribune reported last October.

Emery withdrew from school in November, citing the emotional effects of a recent divorce, and did not play in any regular season games in 2017-18 after playing in some exhibition games.

BYU confirmed last October that it was “working with the NCAA” regarding Emery’s case.

Holmoe answered nearly 30 questions in the 55-minute session Wednesday, but the aforementioned was the only one regarding Emery and the NCAA sanctions. The only other specific basketball question concerned BYU’s program losing players to transfers or the professional ranks before their eligibility expires. Stars Eric Mika and Elijah Bryant have left early in each of the past two years.

Holmoe said the transfer rate in the NCAA for men’s basketball nationally is 40 percent, and BYU hasn’t been immune to that. The more pressing issue, he said, if figuring out a way to compete with national power and West Coast Conference rival Gonzaga.

“We are in a conference now where we are not the team to beat. It is Gonzaga, and they are really, really good, he said, referring to the Zags as “Goliath” at one point. “It is super hard” to stay with Gonzaga, which toyed with leaving the WCC last spring, but stayed after getting some scheduling and tournament format concessions.

Holmoe opened the annual class by telling the attendees he is “super excited” for the upcoming school year and sports seasons at BYU. He promised that the football team, which went 4-9 last year, “is better” and will be more competitive in 2018.

As usual, Holmoe was asked about BYU’s football independence and prospects to join a Power Five conference in the future. He doesn’t expect any significant movement until 2023 when television contracts expire, and warned that in 10 years most games won’t be watched on television, but on laptop computers and telephone screens.

The starting quarterback issue — senior Tanner Mangum or freshman Zach Wilson — was the fifth question asked. Holmoe said he “never, never” goes to a coach to tell them who they should play.

“The coaches will put the best quarterback out there and I will be comfortable with that,” he said. “Whichever one they choose, it will be a good choice.”

Later Wednesday, head coach Kalani Sitake said his staff is “getting close” to naming a starter for the Sept. 1 opener at Arizona, but isn’t quite ready just yet.

Holmoe said last year’s disappointing season was hard on everybody, including him.

“I would walk into church and it was like the parting of the Red Sea,” he said. “No one wanted to talk to me.”

Holmoe called new University of Utah athletic director Mark Harlan “a really good guy” and said it is hard for Utah to schedule BYU in football every year due to the “small window” the Utes have for scheduling non-conference games.

However, Holmoe said his expectations regarding playing Utah is that the rivals play “every year in every sport.” Utah has not been willing to do contracts beyond two years (home and home agreements) at a time, he said.