BYU is a program at a crossroads. It is transitioning to the Big 12 in the 2023 season. Yet, it also has to spend the next year and half finishing out its obligations to the West Coast Conference and wrapping up loose ends as an independent in football.
In the meantime, BYU has to make significant structural changes across the athletic department to prepare for the Power Five level. This includes facility upgrades, adding support staff for football and basketball and a wholesale change in scheduling.
BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe spoke on a number of issues facing the program at his semi-annual address this Thursday.
How will BYU handle football scheduling as it transitions to the Big 12?
BYU, like all college programs, has scheduled nearly five years in advance in football. However, since BYU has spent the last decade as an independent, that means the program has scheduling agreements with 12 teams every year through the 2026-27 season.
As it enters the Big 12, BYU will only have three or four non-conference opponents open to schedule. Eight or nine games will have to be scratched from its pre-existing schedule annually. Holmoe says he is looking at contracts to see if BYU can either buy teams out, or simply get out of the contract.
Generally, there is language in some scheduling contracts saying teams can get out of an agreement if one program enters a Power Five conference. Holmoe says there are certain contracts already signed that BYU cannot get out of. For example, Nevada will have to play BYU in 2024.
“We are still figuring that out,” Holmoe said. “For those years [until 26-27], we are trying to take teams out.”
The question of which teams BYU will keep in its non-conference slate remains. Holme said he would like to play in-state rivals Utah and Utah State consistently. He also says he’ll look at out-of-state rivalries, like Boise State, to see if eventually those can be kept.
Boise State athletic director Jeramiah Dickey said the series between BYU and Boise would end for the time being after BYU enters the Big 12.
“Those are decisions that still need to be made. [We’ll see] how we can get those games back,” Holmoe said. “Will it be a consistent every year rivalry? I’d say the answer would be no.”
Expanding the budget
BYU spends around $20 million on its football program. That is less than half of the $41 million Texas spends on football.
Although Texas is departing the Big 12, the point stands that BYU will have to make a much bigger commitment to football, and athletics in general, now that it’s entering the Power Five.
Holmoe sees BYU spending money immediately to increase staff size. He pushed back, though, on the notion the athletic department has to immediately ramp up to the staff sizes of Texas football or Kansas basketball.
Instead he sees BYU having strategic investments over the next year. In some areas, like recruiting, BYU may expand those staffs to be comparable in size — and monetary commitment — to the Big 12′s elite. In other areas, it may not.
“We’re not going to try to jump up and create some budget based on where it would [rank in the Big 12],” Holmoe said. “I like looking at the actual organization of the football program. You will see different titles or maybe different dollar numbers. We’ll do it the BYU way.”
Long-term, BYU is planning facility upgrades. In the next two years, Holmoe does not expect any new buildings in place. There will also be no expansion of the football stadium to add corner end-zone seats.
“You could probably build a building between now and two years, but it wouldn’t be as good as you want,” Holmoe said. “I think we are trying to look at a master plan and where we could be five-to-10 years from now.”
College football playoff expansion, Big 12 divisional updates
Holmoe attended the Big 12 conference in Las Vegas earlier this January. The Big 12 is planning on splitting the conference into two divisions, either by geography or by strength of the programs.
Holmoe has no preference right now on which division BYU could theoretically be in. There will be another meeting this spring to get more tangible details.
Also of note, the Big 12 has pushed for College Football Playoff expansion. Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsey has been an advocate for a 12-team playoff. Holme says he is in favor of that format.
“I think it should go beyond what it is right now,” Holmoe said. “I’d probably be willing to accept some other scenarios other than 12.”
Honor Code changes
Honor Code changes have been a large talking point for BYU as it enters a new conference. Holme says he is starting to see BYU relax some of its Honor Code policies, especially on grooming and hairstyle.
Right now, the code says, “hairstyles should be clean and neat, avoiding extreme styles or colors, and trimmed above the collar, leaving the ear uncovered.”
“I don’t know if it has anything to do with the Big 12 or anything to do with athletics,” Holmoe said of the changes. “But I do think you will see [some of the changes] in athletics before you see it on campus.”