Tom Holmoe named NACDA Athletic Director of the Year
PROVO, Utah — The National Association of College Directors of Athletics today named BYU’s Tom Holmoe Athletics Director of the Year.
The ADOY Award highlights the efforts of athletics directors for their commitment and positive contributions to student-athletes, campuses and their surrounding communities. Holmoe was named one of four recipients at the FBS level, along with Matt Hogue (Coastal Carolina), Shane Lyons (West Virginia) and Rob Mullens (Oregon). The recipients will be officially recognized at the NACDA virtual convention July 27 and 28.
Holmoe was named director of athletics at BYU on March 1, 2005. He oversees a nationally recognized program with 21 intercollegiate sports, involving more than 600 student-athletes and a 190-person staff. Since his appointment, BYU has captured 120 conference regular-season and postseason championships, and more than 275 student-athletes have earned All-America status.
“If this were a career award, Tom would be among the most deserving,” said BYU president Kevin J Worthen, who worked with Holmoe for six years as advancement vice president over athletics and seven years as president. “For the past 15 years, Tom has been a remarkably effective leader of a program that, without exception, finished in the top 50 in the Director's Cup, often in the top 35, and usually the top non-Power-5 program. He has also been extremely effective as a role model and mentor for the student athletes at BYU. He always knows exactly how many student-athletes are enrolled each semester, and often is on a first-name basis with each of them. Tom's lifetime contributions are almost without parallel. But this is an annual award, given for performance over the past year. And, in that regard, Tom is, in my opinion, not just among the most deserving, but the most deserving.”
It was a unique and unprecedented year for athletic departments throughout the country. To see growth and success in this year, amid a global pandemic, was remarkable.
Holmoe has focused on putting the individual welfare of his student-athletes as his No. 1 priority. Because of that, he has championed an increase of mental health services available within BYU Athletics for student-athletes to utilize. This was an area of growth this past year, and it proved to be important as many student-athletes struggled to adapt not just through pandemic-related effects but also societal issues that were brought front and center this past year. Holmoe sent videos out through BYU Athletics' internal messaging system to student-athletes, with a special effort through the pandemic, to encourage them to take advantage of the mental health resources available to them, including therapists and counselors within the athletic department.
While some might think the struggles associated with so much uncertainty and changes in routines this past year could lead to struggles in the classroom, that has not been the case for BYU student-athletes. Under Holmoe’s care and leadership, student athletes excelled in the classroom. Every team had an average GPA of 3.00 or higher last winter semester, with a cumulative GPA for all student athletes of 3.50.
Another area of student-athlete success this past year related to empowering student-athletes to lend their voices to social issues, specifically issues related to diversity, inclusion and racial equity. This was done in a student-athlete-first manner at BYU. Holmoe encouraged teams to meet together, have discussions and decide what they wanted to do. Perhaps of greatest note, the football team decided to wear shirts with a message of Love One Another on them, as part of their warmup gear. More than that, the players wanted BYU to sell the shirts and have the profits go toward scholarships for students of color on campus. Through the BYU Store and in conjunction with BYU Multicultural Student Services, sales of the shirts had a remarkable profit of $100,000, helping fund 63 scholarships. Holmoe has also championed the formation of a diversity and inclusion committee that brings together diverse voices throughout the athletic department. Holmoe also hired a senior level associate athletic director for student-athlete development, diversity and inclusion.
In other fundraising efforts, Holmoe became the face of an important All In capital campaign this past year. He was extremely transparent, explaining the need for donations, as well as explaining some nuance related to BYU's unique financial model that many fans didn't know previously.
In the video, Holmoe explained that BYU Athletics is facing a $20 million shortfall, due to the effects of the pandemic, including COVID-19 testing costs and lost revenue from not having fans at events. He asked anyone who was able to give, to give. That campaign has led to more than $15 million in donations, from more than 7,000 donors, coming from all 50 states and different countries. “All In” has been a remarkable success that is making a major difference and positioning BYU Athletics for important future growth. The $15 million raised in less than five months far surpasses previous benchmarks for usual donations during such a time frame. BYU Athletics typically averages $13 million in donations per year.
Finally, as far as success on the field and on the court goes, Holmoe has led BYU to remarkable results. At the end of the Fall 2019 semester, BYU was ranked No. 5 in the Director's Cup standings, thanks in part to a national championship in men's cross country and a runner up in women's cross country. When COVID-19 put a halt on things a few months later, BYU's men's volleyball team was ranked No. 1 in the country and men's basketball No. 14. BYU was on track for its highest ranking ever. BYU women’s soccer also went to the Elite 8 in 2019.
To help address the impact of COVID-19 head on, Holmoe compiled a COVID-19 response team last May within BYU Athletics that included administrators, trainers and medical personnel. This team interfaced directly with BYU Risk Management, the Utah County Health Department, the West Coast Conference, the NCAA and other organizations to make sure BYU could create and follow appropriate protocols. Starting these protocol conversations, and implementing protocols, so early provided BYU teams and student-athletes time to create a culture that helped prevent the spread among BYU teams and prevent cancelations due to coronavirus issues internally.
With the proper protocols and procedures in place, Holmoe sought out individual student-athlete feedback to see how they felt about playing their sport through a pandemic. Having received resounding support for playing games and scheduling events, Holmoe was able to champion that and go to bat for his athletes.
When the football season started back up, this is when many praised Holmoe the most. Despite eight games being cancelled by opponents, Holmoe worked tirelessly to replace those games with new matchups and give the football team a full slate of games in the season. When things started up in September, BYU was the only team in the entire western United States playing football. In some cases, scheduling games just days or weeks before they took place, Holmoe helped position the team for success, and it was the most successful season in more than two decades, as the Cougars finished with an 11-1 record, a No. 11 final AP ranking and a quarterback in Zach Wilson now projected as the No. 2 pick overall in the NFL Draft. Holmoe was continually checking in with the football players and coaches, making sure they were on the same page and that he was representing their best interests.
Throughout the football season, and as it concluded, national and local media, BYU players and coaches and BYU fans around the world praised Holmoe, with more than a few calls from them for AD of the Year.
“Most impressively, Tom continued his role as mentor to the more than 600 student-athletes at BYU who are facing not only the normal academic and athletic pressures, but also a worldwide pandemic,” Worthen said. “And it is this role and focus Tom enjoys most. He is an extraordinary athletic director, who has had an extraordinary year. There could not be a better choice for this award.”
Among the letters of support that were submitted to NACDA for the award, there were four from BYU student-athletes and coaches: football player Isaiah Kaufusi, BYU gymnast Angel Zhong, BYU Track and Field and Cross Country Coach Diljeet Taylor and BYU Football Coach Kalani Sitake. Each shared personal anecdotes that showed Holmoe’s depth of care and support for his student-athletes.
From the letters of support
"I recall a time during my Junior year of football where Tom invited me into his office,” Kaufusi said. “We spoke for a very long time about football, life, school, etc. Little did he know, I was struggling at this time. I was enrolled in 14 credits, trying to balance a newborn baby boy, a recovering wife and giving my all to my team. Tom listened to me and continually listened to me as we would meet several times over the year. There is no greater feeling than having a support system who listens and understands. He gets it because he has been there before. He connects because he is a former student-athlete, professional athlete and coach. Tom got me through a tough time just by listening, understanding, and teaching."
"Last year, I suffered a heart-breaking ruptured Achilles that ended my season before it even began,” Zhong said. “As I sat sobbing uncontrollably on a training room table, Tom came in and gave me a hug. He looked deeply into my eyes and calmly told me that I will be back. As I stared into his piercing eyes, I saw the pain and sadness he felt for me, but I didn’t see a hint of doubt that I would overcome this trial placed before me. Tom believed in me even when I couldn’t. This past Saturday, Tom came to cheer on my team for our first meet of the season and celebrate with me my triumphant return to competition. Whether we win or lose, Tom will be on the sidelines cheering us on, vigorously supporting his team to the end. Ultimately, regardless of athletic performance, Tom believes in his athletes and inspires us to be better than we thought we could ever be."
“As I speak to my colleagues across the country, I know these coaches don’t have the same interactions and connections with their AD that we get to have here,” Taylor said. “An AD who brings warm chocolate chip cookies to your house as you are working from home during the pandemic, an AD who sings Christmas Carols outside your house during the holidays, an AD who shows up to home track meets and is moving hurdles alongside your hurdle crew, an AD who checks in with your spouse and children at sporting events, an AD who plans a yearly Utah Jazz game night with the female head coaches on staff, and an AD who tears up when he talks about our student-athletes because he genuinely cares about each and every one of them.”
“I could give hundreds of examples and stories of Tom being an exceptional AD and leader,” Sitake said. “If you ever want to know how I personally feel about him, just listen to my postgame press conferences or media video clips during the week. I make it a point to thank Tom for his efforts, because I truly appreciate all that he does for me personally and for the football program. I know he is an integral part of our success, and this year is especially a testament to that. I fell his passion is unmatched, and his abilities to make incredible things happen in the face of seemingly impossible odds was really highlighted this year. I cannot think of a more deserving person to receive the honor of Athletic Director of the Year than Tom Holmoe.”