The tweets are coming in over various Twitter feeds from college sports writers across the country as college head coaches are officially relieved of their duties: Larry Porter at Memphis, Ron Zook at Illinois, Turner Gill at Kansas. A list that could grow with the addition of likely openings at UCLA, Arizona State, Washington State among other colleges. Stewart Mandel at Sports Illustrated tweeted: “I’m concerned there may be more coaching openings than bowl teams.”
With higher than normal coaching changes, some coming after merely two seasons at schools like Memphis and Kansas, there will inevitably be coaches moving on or up in the food chain of contract offers or game day challenges.
While we will inevitably see names such as Utah’s Kyle Whittingham, Boise State’s Chris Petersen surface with jobs like Penn State amongst those being open, could Bronco Mendenhall of BYU find himself confronted with or actually entertaining offers from other schools about leaving the Cougars?
To date Mendenhall has compiled a 64-24 record over seven seasons at BYU since taking over for Gary Crowton after the 2004 season. Mendenhall is 4-2 in bowl appearances. Similarly the legendary LaVell Edwards was 52-30 after concluding his seventh campaign with the Cougars in 1978.
The question is: Would Mendenhall be interested in moving on from BYU? Dave Rose thought seriously for a few days last March about an offer from Oklahoma University but opted to remain with the Cougars basketball program despite his disappointment in the league alignment scenario that unfolded the previous summer.
LaVell Edwards’ three-decade tenure at BYU seams to also put the kibosh on any ideas in the press of a possible Mendenhall move. Many look at the job at BYU as an LDS Church calling in addition to it being a profession. Some continue to suspect the pay is sub-par despite many credible yet unsubstantiated sources placing Mendenhall’s annual pay package at close to $1.2 million which is on par with most mid-sized Pac 12 and Big 12 programs, including Utah’s Kyle Whittingham. Pay is almost NEVER the issue at BYU despite what some might like to say.
Which in-state coaches are likely to move on after 2011?
The other question is where would Bronco Mendenhall be interested in coaching in the future? Since Mendenhall loves to surf, the job at UCLA comes to mind being close to many of southern California’s premiere surf beaches. Also UCLA would present the level of academics Mendenhall would want with a program. Since Bronco Mendenhall also enjoys equestrian activities and owns several horses, the likely opening at Arizona State could be enticing since the northeastern communities of the metro-Phoenix area have many such draws.
Much would also depend upon how the family felt about it particularly wife Holly, a Missoula, Montana native which means even the likely opening at Washington State isn’t entirely out of the question. The same holds true for their alma mater Oregon State.
But what would likely be the biggest determiner of Mendenhall staying in Provo will be the administration's commitment to finding a league home in a true power conference for BYU. Like Dave Rose last year, Mendenhall knows the relevance of not just the football program, but overall athletic department profile and the BYU brand depend upon the competition that is arranged.
The continued efforts of President Cecil O. Samuelson and athletic director Tom Holmoe to arrange a suitable league affiliation will be a critical element with respect to the school's ability to retain Bronco Mendenhall. If they're not serious about this one, I see neither he nor Dave Rose remaining in Provo.
Should Bronco decide to move on, it could represent a serious blow to the future of the program at BYU at a very critical time when the coming years of relevance are at a crossroads.