Bronco Mendenhall at Brigham Young: How Many Losses Will Cost Him His Job?
Coach Gary Crowton (BYU 2001-2004) is evidence that even at BYU, you win you stay, you lose you go.
Crowton went 12-2 in his first season in 2001. After that, the collapse was on. In 2002, he went 5-7 with key losses to Utah, New Mexico, UNLV, and Nevada. The first three were wins waiting to happen, but BYU yanked defeat from the jaws of victory in typical fashion. Each of those games still burns in our minds with a memory sparked by the recent loss at Utah.
In season three, Crowton upped the ante and went 4-8. The schedule was tough, tough like this year’s schedule and the coming schedule in 2013. Losing games to USC, Stanford, Notre Dame, and Boise State was understandable, even though Stanford was a win waiting to happen yet again. The big losses were at Utah, 0-3, Wyoming, Colorado State, and Air Force for a second consecutive year.
With so much promise playing such stellar opposition, the Cougars had as good of a schedule as could be put together, owing they were in the MWC. However, BYU was on the downward slide. Moral was down. Good players weren’t playing up to their potential. Sound familiar?
The Season That Ended the Crowton Era
To start the 2004 season, BYU started with a win at Notre Dame. It was perhaps the high point of Crowton’s career at BYU.
Within weeks, the 2004 season had hit the rocks and BYU went 5-6, not even playing a 12 game season and thus shorting the school of an opportunity to make the money necessary to add to the coffers of the athletic program. Poor planning and scheduling was a classic faux pas that hurt the program not only in 2004, but afterwards.
The hammer fell, with huge embarrassing losses to Utah, Stanford, and USC. They were blowouts. BYU was out of its league and came away hurting. Those were, however, not as bad as the losses in games they could have and should have won at New Mexico, UNLV, and Boise State. The Boise State loss was on a missed field goal in the final seconds.
Enter Bronco Mendenhall
To this state of affairs came Bronco Mendenhall in 2005 with a 6-6 season and a loss in the lowly Las Vegas Bowl to California, 28-35, in yet another game they could have and should have won.
In 2006, BYU fans got excited as BYU went 11-2, beat Utah, and won a bowl game against a wounded Oregon 38-8. YEAH! BYU was back.
Not so fast, my friend. The two losses were to Arizona and Boston College, the only two AQ teams on its play list. Never mind, right? We had a winning season against inferior competition and went to a bowl game and we won it. Never mind it was in Las Vegas, sin city of the western world.
I must ask, is that the bowl game, city and image BYU really wants to play in?
“Looking Good,” But Looks are Deceiving
To move on. The years 2007, 2008, and 2009 looked good on paper, but AQ teams seemed to continue to have their way with BYU. In 2010, the roof fell in again with a 7-6 season, redeemed only by a win against UTEP in the New Mexico Bowl. The what? Yeah, me too. What the heck is the New Mexico Bowl?
That brings us to 2011 and a 10-3 year, where BYU beat Ole Miss, barely, lost to Texas, a game they could have won, and was run over by TCU. Last year, the big embarrassment was at Utah. I won’t even repeat the score; I consider it equivalent to sports porn.
Now comes the critical question. At what point do we recognize that BYU is winning, barely in many situations, and having games against scrub teams like San Jose State, Idaho State, Idaho, and New Mexico. But also losing to AQ teams.
BYU has won only 11 games against AQ teams in the entire Bronco Mendenhall era. That is what Alabama does in one year, not seven years(not counting 2012). But BYU lost to 11 AQ teams in the same period. Some might say that that is a .500 record, so that is pretty good.
It is at this point that I bring to your attention in that same period BYU also lost six games to inferior teams, like Utah State and Tulsa. I didn’t count Utah and TCU because the numbers get even worse.
A Clear Pattern by 2012
The Pattern shows: Bronco wins lots of games against little teams and loses to the big teams.
For BYU to be successful in independence and play in the ballpark with the big boys consistently, it needs to win against the big teams consistently. It needs a reputation and an attitude. People will want to knock the chip off their shoulder and take them down a peg. They will want to be the one to stand up to the big gun, and go for it.
BYU needs swagger and press to go with it. In marketing, it is called “branding.” Beating Idaho State or Idaho does not give you swagger or the kind of branding that makes people want to play you.
Boise State and Utah (oh I hate to say this) have understood that, with wins in BCS bowl games, and the quality wins that got them there. For the entire seven years of the Mendenhall era, BYU hasn’t had the quality wins or been to that kind of game. Why? A simple answer:
BYU hasn't been able to win the big ones.
Tough Choices: Independence Success in the Big Time or Bronco Mendenhall
If BYU wants to play teams like Notre Dame regularly, and win regularly, changes have to be made. Notre Dame will not want to play teams that they just walk over, as evidenced by their recent agreement to join the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Fans and administration have to ask: At what point does BYU finally admit that Bronco Mendenhall is only marginally better than Gary Crowton? Crowton played a far harder schedule than Mendenhall has faced. Mendenhall has had success because he has been able to beat hapless teams like Weber State, Washington State, and the near winless teams like Washington and Ole Miss.
It is time for BYU to stop reveling in beating teams with losing records and start facing facts. There needs to be a change at BYU to win the big games. You can’t fire the players; they have scholarships and commitments to be there for four years.
You might be able to run a few of them off, but not the whole team and have a team left. So that leaves it to the coaches. If BYU is going to ascend to the heights of excellence that it has the potential to do, it will fall upon the heads of the coaches and the current coaches have proven they can’t do it.
If BYU is about excellence, then attaining mediocrity by beating substandard competition, even if it looks good in the win-loss statistic, is not what BYU is really all about.
Even LaVell Edwards was forced into retirement after his last three seasons of 9-5, 8-4 and 6-6.
So I ask, at what win-loss record and how many big games does he lose before the heat descends on Bronco Mendenhall?