BYU AD Tom Holmoe walks back comments on Honor Code, Kalani Sitake discusses new LDS temple recommend rule

Holmoe had said the university was relaxing dressing and grooming standards, but clarified his comments Friday

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Brigham Young University athletics director Tom Holmoe, left, and university president Kevin Worthen, wait for the start of a press event to announce BYU's acceptance into the Big 12 conference in Provo, Friday, Sept. 10, 2021.

BYU’s mandate that newly hired employees must hold a temple recommend if they are a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will apply to football and other athletics programs.

The mandate went into effect Thursday, but originally it was unclear if the policy on temple recommends would be enforced for the athletic department. However, BYU head coach Kalani Sitake told The Salt Lake Tribune on Friday that the temple recommend rule will apply to the football program.

Sitake noted his program has had a similar policy in place since he was hired in 2015.

“It’s not that much of an adjustment for us,” Sitake said. “That’s how we live our life as coaches. We’ve been aligned with [the policy] since the beginning anyways.”

A temple recommend is a card that states a person is in good standing with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. A member of the church has to go through an interview with their local bishopric and their regional leader to be approved. There are usually a set of standard questions asked and the recommend is valid for two years.

Non-members of the church will not need a temple recommend. However, Sitake said all of his hires meet certain standards regardless. Sitake hired two non-members in 2021 — offensive line coach Darrell Funk and linebackers coach Kevin Clune.

“Well, there’s a standard that everybody has to [meet to] work here,” Sitake said. “The standard that we apply to our players also applies to our coaches and our staff.”

As for the dressing and grooming standards in the Honor Code, athletic director Tom Holmoe walked back his comments from Thursday.

Holmoe, in his semi-annual address to the media earlier in the week, indicated BYU is relaxing some of its dress and grooming standards. He noted it was an effort to be accommodating to more cultures.

“I want to clarify something from my media roundtable yesterday,” Holmoe wrote on Twitter this Friday. “I want to be clear that we still very much expect our student-athletes to abide by all BYU dress and grooming standards.

“What I was intending to express is that we are committed to following our dress and grooming standards while being culturally sensitive. I apologize for any confusion that my response created.”

Holmoe originally credited the athletic department for being one of the first areas of campus where more lenient hairstyles were allowed. He said the athletic department’s example is starting to spread to non-athletes on campus.

“If you walk through our campus, you’ll see some of the things that might be different in athletics. You’ll go, ‘Wait, can you do that?’” Holmoe said. “But you’ll see it and it might have started in athletics.”

The current Honor Code states, “hairstyles should be clean and neat, avoiding extreme styles or colors, and trimmed above the collar.” Men cannot wear sleeveless or form fitting shirts.

For women, the Honor Code says, “clothing is inappropriate when it is sleeveless, strapless, backless, or revealing.” All clothing must go below the knee. The hairstyle code is similar for women and men.

This part of the Honor Code has been criticized as exclusive and not accommodating to some cultures. The athletic department is more diverse than the rest of the university. BYU is 81% white, according to 2021 figures.

“I think that as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints grows, and is in every land, you are going to find a lot of cultures that have hairstyles and other things that are quite different than the BYU dress and grooming standards,” Holmoe said Thursday.

“Have we been a little more lenient?” Holmoe continued. “The answer is yes.”