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BYU Should Wait and See on Bronco

30 May 2013 Brett Richins
BYU head football coach Bronco Mendenhall. BYU PHOTO

BYU head football coach Bronco Mendenhall. BYU PHOTO

BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe told the media during in his annual end-of-the-year press conference on Wednesday that he isn’t sure how long it will take to get a contract extension in place for BYU head football coach Bronco Mendenhall.

Holmoe said that talks are ongoing and that both parties are looking to extend Mendenhall’s deal.

“There are always ups and downs,” Holmoe said. “But (Mendenhall) has done a really good job for us, and we are looking to extend.”

Holmoe indicated that he hopes to have something in place before the 2013 season kicks off on August 31st in Charlottesville against the Virginia Cavaliers.

However, it would completely understandable if Holmoe and the BYU administration decided to take a wait-and-see approach when it comes to re-upping on Bronco. Considering that they haven’t already tied him up with two months to go until the start of fall camp in the final year of his contract would seem to indicate at least some level of concern about the current direction of the program.

If would seem that if Holmoe and the administration were completely thrilled with the results Mendenhall has produced in recent years, they would have moved to locked him up some time ago and not leave him hanging with just seven months to go on his current deal.

The truth be told, the football program in Provo has been slogging its way through a degree of mediocrity under Mendenhall over the past three seasons. Since the start of 2010, the Cougars are 25-14 and have failed to win a truly meaningful game since defeating Oklahoma and Utah in 2009.

In 2010, Bronco signed off on rotating quarterbacks Riley Nelson and true freshman Jake Heaps to start the season. It was an experiment that went against conventional wisdom and it blew up in his face.

The Cougars stumbled out of the gate, going 1-4 before taking advantage of a weak schedule over the second half of of the season to finish with a winning record at 7-6. They finished tied for fourth place in their final year in the Mountain West Conference and ended the season with a win over a 6-6 UTEP team up in the New Mexico Bowl.

After an embarrassing 31-16 loss at Utah State in week five that season, Mendenhall fired defensive coordinator Jamie Hill and took over the defense himself. Days after the season concluded, Bronco informed the members of his offensive staff that they would need to reapply for their jobs. Offensive coordinator Robert Anae ended up packing up and moving to Arizona, while the then up-and-coming Brandon Doman was tabbed to lead the BYU offense.

The 2011 season ended with 10 victories, but BYU dropped its most important games of the year against Texas, Utah and TCU. The 54-10 melt down against the Utes at home was one of the most embarrassing loses in the history of the program. The Cougars’ lone victory over a a team that finished with a winning record that season was a miracle, 27-24 come-from-behind win against Utah State, when Nelson came into the game late for Jake Heaps and led them to two fourth-quarter touchdowns.

Last year the Cougars finished a disappointing 8-5, with three of the five loses coming by a total of seven points. For the third year in a row they fell to arch-rival Utah, dropping a 24-21 decision in Salt Lake City despite two chances at a field goal at the end of game. The loss was Mendenhall’s fourth in the last five seasons against his nemesis Kyle Whittingham.

The end of the 2012 season mercifully marked the end of the career of Riley Nelson at quarterback. Mendenhall’s seemingly blind commitment to a QB that clearly lacked the tools necessary to execute a traditional BYU-style passing attack, especially when Bronco allowed Nelson to play with fractures in his back, caused the coach’s judgement to be called into question.

After three-consecutive seasons of struggling mightily on offense, Mendenhall cleaned house on his offensive staff for the second time in the span of two years. Brandon Doman was out at OC after just two seasons and Robert Anae was back in. The remainder of the offensive coaches either retired, found other work, or were let go.

The hope is that Anae, with his newly-found, up-tempo philosophy can return the Cougar offense to its pre-2010 levels of production. If Mendenhall does not receive a contract extension before the start of the season, his future may hang on the job that Anae and his new offensive staff does in getting the offense back up to speed.

Bronco did an outstanding job of resurrecting the program from the ashes of his predecessor Gary Crowton. However, in today’s world of college football its all about what coaches have done lately.

In the four years from 2006 through 2009, Bronco posted an impressive 43-9 record and four consecutive seasons of double-digit wins. Since then though, things have slid downhill, going from a winning percentage of 83-percent from 2006-09, to just 64-percent over the last three years.

Holmoe noted on Wednesday that progress this season might not be able to be measured in wins and losses given the difficulty of schedule. But what the football program cannot afford is a another three years of the status quo. For that reason BYU would be wise to see how things develop in 2013 before making any long-term commitment to its current head coach.

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