COMMENTARY – For the first time in 11 seasons, BYU’s football program will be looking for a new head coach as Bronco Mendenhall took the vacant Virginia head football coaching position today.
Many BYU fans are in shock.
This agreement is a five-year deal worth $3.25 million dollars per year and takes him to a whole new coaching level. There was no real sign of him leaving this season, but he has applied for other coaching positions in previous years, so it was going to eventually happen for him while he continued to have solid winning seasons year after year.
Some BYU fans will take it as really bad news, while others may look at it as great news. Mendenhall was 99-42 in his 11 seasons as head coach. The Cougars have not missed a bowl game since he took over from Gary Crowton over 11 seasons ago.
BYU announced today that the school will allow Mendenhall to lead the Cougars to their 11th straight bowl game appearance, Dec. 19, in the Las Vegas Royal Purple Bowl. As BYU’s coach, Mendenhall is 6-4 in bowl games and his all-time record at the Y is just a win away from the 100-win benchmark.
Over the years, I’ve run into so many people with their own formulated opinions of Bronco and many were good and some not so good. I will say this: It’s tough to have a bad opinion of a guy that wins so many games for one program and always gets his team to a bowl game.
But many people never saw Mendenhall as the coach that will get BYU to the next level.
I still remember when Coach Mendenhall asked me to speak to the team for their first team meeting with him as the newly crowned head coach. I recall vividly the look of determination to be great in his eyes.
I always knew he would do some great things for the program, but defense is where I personally see him at his best. He has a great defensive mind and Virginia will be lucky to have him.
Cavalier fans are expecting some ACC championships in the near future and I wish him the best of luck. As a former player, I would like to give him a huge congratulations on having a great career at BYU and signing this new big deal with Virginia. I have a lot of respect for Mendenhall and how he has stuck to “winning the right way,” in his eyes. There are many players that love him and some alumni that do not particularly like him, so I am sure there will be mixed emotions for all who are Blue Blooded.
Mendenhall will be surely missed from the defensive side of the ball, but maybe this is a good separation in all reality. BYU was once known as the original QB factory for its amazing high-powered West Coast offense. LaVell Edwards cannot ever be replaced, but had once established such great things from the offensive side of the ball.
Truthfully, most folks do not go to games to see a defensive battle with very little scoring. Fans love to see lots of points hit the board. Deep down, Cougar fans all wistfully recall the glory days, when averaging 50 points a game was the norm.
Moving forward, there are many directions that BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe and the program can go, but I truly believe it needs to be focused in on a head coach with a “head coach mentality” vs. an offensive or defensive mindset.
There isn’t a coach that will come in to BYU and replace Bronco Mendenhall for what he brought to the program defensively, just like there wasn’t someone who could come in and replace Edwards offensively. BYU will need someone to come in that can really recruit and be a guy that can moderate great offensive, defensive and special teams programs as a whole.
There are many great coaches out there and early talk is swirling around Navy’s Ken Niumatalolo, who had a great year for the Midshipmen. Niumatalolo is LDS and already has name recognition among LDS circles as one of the stars of the LDS movie “Meet the Mormons.
But coaching BYU will be a little more difficult than most schools for many reasons. It’s harder to recruit because of the honor code and Provo is not the most attractive destination for most young players.
BYU is not in a conference, which makes the program somewhat less attractive. But I guess it still has ESPN for now, so there is national attention that may intrigue players of high caliber.
Would Niumatalolo leave Navy? The real question is, what great coaches are out there that are willing to leave their current program and head for Provo, where they may have to take a pay cut – BYU hardly pays market value, which is probably the biggest reason Mendenhall is leaving.
I don’t think there is someone internally in the program who can give Cougar Nation what it really needs, so who?
It almost certainly will have to be a member of the LDS faith, given the Honor Code and other factors. So where does that leave us? Here’s a short list: Derrell Bevell, offensive assistant for the Green Bay Packers; Robbie Bosco, former BYU quarterback and former QB coach at BYU; Kalani Sitake, former Cougar and assistant at Utah; Mike Leech, head coach at Washington State; Andy Reid, head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs; Dave Campo, former assistant coach for the Dallas Cowboys; Danny White, former Dallas Cowboys quarterback and Arena Football coaching legend.
There are a lot of possibilities, none of them completely off the table. I hear Steve Young may be looking for a change of careers.
It certainly will make for an interesting off season, won’t it?!
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