After last Friday's 55-30 loss to Boise State, BYU has arguably reached rock-bottom under head coach Bronco Mendenhall. With a four-game losing skid to non-Power Five teams escalating, the Cougars are scrambling for a solution to their struggles.
Blame whatever you please, but the coaching has been as ugly as anything in the past four games. BYU has come out unprepared, unmotivated and sloppy, and there is no one to shoulder the blame but Mendenhall. He has absolutely toyed with the reins to his defense, failed to prepare his players and simply been out-coached for the past several weeks.
Derik Stevenson, a former BYU linebacker, stated the truth clearly in a recent article on FanSided:
(BYU football's) great culture...has taken some serious blows. The team is currently, officially the third best program in the state. There is no bigger fan and proponent of BYU than I am. But the reality is clear: Brigham Young Football is at a tipping point. (Mendenhall's) services have been appreciated. But it’s time for (Mendenhall) to go. Anyone that takes the time to truly dig into the stats can see that (Mendenhall is) not going to change.
I agree wholeheartedly with Stevenson's statements and know that BYU will never reach an elite level with Mendenhall at the helm. But when the truth rears its ugly head, reality is clear—Bronco Mendenhall may never get fired from BYU—at least, in the near future.
First off, even if the Cougars only win one more game this season and miss a bowl game, too many people love Bronco. He should be respected for putting faith first and building quality young men. But as a football coach, he also needs to win games.
It would appear Mendenhall has had just enough success—on and off the field—to gain respect from the administrators, church leaders and nearly anyone who has a say at BYU, even though he may not be able to lead his team to home victories over Utah State and Nevada.
Secondly, even if Bronco lost every game remaining on the schedule—even against winless FCS team Savannah State—who has the right to fire him? BYU's current director of athletics, Tom Holmoe, has anything but the authority to give him the boot.
Holmoe had a five-season tenure as Cal's head coach and posted the following records:
|Cal Football: 1997-2001|
|Year||Overall (W-L)||Conference (W-L)||Bowl Game|
*Four wins in 1999 were stripped after NCAA violations
On top of winning only 16 games through five seasons, NCAA violations under Holmoe gave Cal five years' probation and limited scholarships, among other punishments. He obviously has no right to fire Mendenhall, especially after eight straight bowl games.
Lastly, if BYU were to fire Mendenhall, who would they hire as a replacement? Apologies to the dreamers, but Andy Reid and Norm Chow aren't reasonable choices. Neither are Kyle Whittingham, Mike Leach, Robert Anae and (definitely not) Holmoe.
So, who's left? Navy's Ken Niumatalolo is a name that has been tossed around lately. So has Utah's Kalani Sitake, who is a former BYU star and proven defensive guru. But would anyone in their right mind want to face the expectations from BYU fans that are growing every year?
At this point, we can only wait and see how this all plays out. Maybe Mendenhall stays on board for several more seasons, or maybe a brave new coach takes the reins at BYU.
If anything is clear, it is that Mendenhall's time as a Cougar should be running short. He isn't the type of coach who can steer BYU to a nationally elite level or contend for a national championship. The biggest problem BYU faces is finding a way to say thanks and get him out the door.
Only time will sort out the mess that has sprung up in Provo. And at this point, unless things change, it will go downhill from here.
Someday, one can only hope that BYU will get back to being, well, BYU.