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Brandon Judd, Deseret News

BYU's Tom Holmoe impressed by 'wicked' 2019 football schedule, overall state of Cougar athletics

By Sean Walker, | Updated - Jan. 30, 2019 at 9:47 p.m. | Posted - Jan. 30, 2019 at 4:26 p.m.

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PROVO — BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe held his annual State of the Athletic Department roundtable with local media Wednesday afternoon, which also coincided with the official release of the Cougars’ 2019 football schedule.

So naturally, the 14-year athletic director opined on the 2019 slate and how the football program improved in the third season of head coach Kalani Sitake — building on a 4-9 campaign in 2017 to finish 7-6 with a bowl win last year.

“I’m really happy that we have a football coach and players that feel good about a schedule like that,” said Holmoe, who confirmed that Sitake has two years remaining on his current contract.

The 2019 season opens Aug. 29 at home against rival Utah and includes home dates with USC, Washington, Boise State, Liberty and Idaho State. The Cougars will also travel to play at Tennessee, Toledo, South Florida, Utah State, UMass and San Diego State.

The schedule features three matchups with teams that finished the 2018 season ranked in the AP Top 25, while BYU is the only program in the nation that will play four Power-5 teams to open the 2019 season.

“If you were to take each one of those teams at their very best, it would be wicked,” Holmoe said. “But I don’t know if each one of those teams is at their very best right now — including BYU.

“I think we have a shot to win a lot of games next year. But there are so many intangibles right now, before spring ball and fall camp.”

The opener with Utah is also unique in that it is the first of a series that was recently extended two more games, a home-and-home setup through the 2024 season.

“I’m grateful to Utah that they extended it for two years,” Holmoe said. “You all know how I feel about it, and it’s certainly a different perspective for Utah. The Pac-12 teams don’t necessarily try to get the biggest games that they can.

“For Utah, it’s unique. They understand the rivalry. Many fans like it, many don’t. But I’m grateful for those two extra games.”

Men's basketball sanctions in appeal

BYU is in the process of appealing sanctions levied against the men’s basketball program as a result of the NCAA investigation involving improper benefits alleged toward junior guard Nick Emery.

Holmoe expects the appeal to be wrapped up by the end of the year, with BYU’s main appeal being that the 47-win vacation is unnecessarily harsh for the level of evidence against Emery.

“We’re just waiting for our time,” Holmoe said. “It’s a long process and not a lot is happening at this time. I feel very good about where it is, and I think we’ll have our appeal at the right time.”

Olympic sport dominance

The Cougars are currently ranked in major polls for six sports, including an AP Top 25 ranking in women’s basketball for the first time since 2012 and a No. 3 ranking from the powerhouse men’s volleyball program.

In addition, BYU was picked by league coaches as the favorite to win a sixth-straight West Coast Conference softball title, the league announced Wednesday.

So while the chief revenue sports of football and men’s basketball have struggled lately, Holmoe takes pride in the overall success of the athletic department.

“I think our Olympic sports are extraordinary,” he said. “We have some fans who discount their success because football and basketball aren’t doing well. But I don’t see that as an either-or proposition.”

Could BYU join a conference for football?

It only took 42 minutes for the concept of leaving football independence to be broached.

Holmoe simply laughed at the suggestion. That’s not his call, he said.

“It really comes down to the big-time movers and shakers,” Holmoe added. “I think it’s cool that people are thinking about it. It’s unrealistic, not close to possible … but it really comes down to several schools at the top of the conferences determining what they want to do.

“It’s a market-driven organization.”

In the meantime, BYU will continue forward in its trail of independence. Holmoe has set the football team up with nearly completed schedules through 2023, and he added that season ticket sales have begun to rebound after dipping following a 4-9 season in 2017.

“There will be ups and downs,” Holmoe said. “I love that people are passionate about what we do. If we don’t have passion, we are in deep trouble. I really love the fact that our fans are passionate.”

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