BYU Athletic Director says football team has “chemistry issues” and uncorrectable "shortcomings"

In an interview yesterday with “The Voice of the Cougars” Greg Wrubell, Brigham Young Cougars Athletic Director Tom Holmoe discussed the football team’s 5-4 record this season. Among other things, Holmoe said the coaching staff had “chemistry issues” and the players had “shortcomings” that could not be corrected this year.

The full interview can be read and heard here.

Holmoe has been BYU’s Athletic Director since 2005. He played football for the same school from 1979-82. During that span BYU won four conference championships and had a record of 42-8. He played on three Super Bowl Championship teams with the San Francisco 49ers in the 1980s. From 1997-2001, Holmoe was the head coach for the California Golden Bears football team.

In a nutshell, Holmoe knows football. He has been part of championship teams, and he has been part of dysfunctional teams. Holmoe can tell when things are right, and when they are amiss. When he talks about shortcomings and chemistry issues, it is wise to take notice.

Holmoe’s intent was not to throw the players or the coaches on the team under the bus. He carefully chose the words he used. While acknowledging that problems existed, he also complimented the coaches and players for bouncing back from adversity this season.

Holmoe praised, "I give these players and coaches a lot of credit for the fight and the determination, in the midst of a somewhat frustrating season."  

Part of Holmoe’s job is to listen to the fans and boosters of the program. He has a vested interest in keeping fans happy during thick and thin. BYU fans and boosters aren’t sticks in the mud. They know the football team is playing below its potential, and they are not happy about it.

Fans and boosters are tiring of sugar coated answers that dance around the issues. Holmoe senses that, so without overdoing the compliments, he cut to the heart of the concerns.

"Realistically for fans and myself, we have to realize that there are some shortcomings on this team that probably are not going to get corrected in the course of a season," Holmoe said. "I think that our coaches and players were surprised that maybe some of our individual players and some of our units didn't play quite as well as they thought they would."

Holmoe also said the coaches have "started to correct those issues, but those issues won't be corrected--not fully corrected--through this season; it's a work in progress that will move into next year."

When Wrubell singled out quarterback Riley Nelson, Holmoe acknowledged that, "He has had some games this year where he has made mistakes that have cost us dearly."

While it may sting members of the team to hear the top of the BYU Athletic Department say such things, it makes fans and boosters feel good to know Holmoe understands how they feel. The status quo is not acceptable, and the necessary changes are being worked on.

Fan and booster dissatisfaction has extended to the coaching staff as well. Wrubell tried to wrestle information regarding possible coaching changes at the end of the season. Holmoe was unwilling to give a definitive yes or no, but acquiesced that everything is not rosy with the coaching staff.  

"There are some chemistry issues with some of the coaching staff as far as we do in games," Holmoe explained.

Whether these chemistry issues lead to a shake up in the staff is unclear.

"I think that Bronco has a good feel," Holmoe said. "I can say he has a good feel for the things that he needs to do."

Apparently, that doesn’t necessarily mean somebody has to go.  

Holmoe shared, "I think the staff will continue to grow and learn, and be able to get to the point where the things that have occurred this year can be forgotten--and that we can move forward and have great things ahead of us."

Notwithstanding Holmoe's final statement, it would seem that some coaching changes are imminent. It will be very hard to defend keeping the coaching staff intact after publicly speaking of “chemistry issues.” What happens if the football team shows no signs of improvement next year? The fans will interpret that as negligence by Holmoe and Bronco Mendenhall. One more year wasted because, despite knowing problems existed, the decision makers didn’t want to make any decisions.

What happens with the players is less clear. The shortcomings can be uncorrectable during the 2012 season for one of two reasons:

1.      There is not enough time, or
2.      The current players aren’t capable.

Hopefully, it is number one. It is a little too late in the recruiting game to find capable players. Scholarship offers may need to be pulled as well, which is not Bronco Mendenhall’s style.

Whatever the future holds, these were strong words from Holmoe. He is saying he cares about the feelings of fans and boosters. He wants BYU football to be better, and he is doing what he can to make it better.

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