By Corey Hickman, BYU Correspondent
BYU’s emotionally stable fan base has called for Bronco Mendenhall’s job periodically throughout his tenure. Usually this dynamic flares up as fans search for a scapegoat after tough losses in the rivalry game or against ranked opponents. However, this sentiment has increasingly festered as fans watched Bronco pledge undying devotion to a limited, albeit lionhearted quarterback. Certain enraged fans are gathering on Cougar Board, sharpening their pitchforks and preparing to run Bronco out of town as the succession plan for the next coach that will take BYU back to the promise land. My caution to such fans is what many a wise individual has uttered, “Be careful what you wish for…”
There is no question that Mendenhall’s support of Riley Nelson has legitimately shaken the faith of many Cougar fans (myself included). However, I have failed to come across an argument that has compelled me to believe that BYU would be better off without Bronco. Let us look at the numbers. Bronco’s win-loss record is 73-29, which is roughly a 72 percent winning percentage. Bronco has led BYU to a bowl game in every post season while he has been the head coach. Bronco has also led BYU to several national rankings including a defense ranked number three, this very year. I won’t discount detracting arguments recognizing Bronco’s record against ranked teams, his record in the rivalry, and his lack of a BCS appearance. However, few can argue that Bronco hasn’t set the bar relatively high. Personally, I enjoy and prefer rooting for a team that wins more than loses.
Bronco’s departure seems rather looming due to a few developing issues in play. Bronco has reportedly entertained other coaching opportunities; most recently at Colorado. Bronco has also stated that he does not plan on becoming a BYU lifer like Coach Edwards. Another contributing factor is the conspicuous disdain for BYU fans that can be seen on Bronco’s shirt sleeve; a stain that seems to be increasing with time. What might come as a head scratcher to some, the fact remains that several notable institutions value Bronco’s abilities at a much higher rate than his current employer.
As the reality sets in that BYU’s marriage with Bronco Mendenhall will end in divorce, sooner rather than later, BYU fans need to brace themselves. The fear of the unknown is warranted. Success at the highest level of college football is difficult to achieve and even more difficult when one plays by the rules of the NCAA, as well as those of the BYU honor code. BYU nation has yet to render a name of a coach that will first take the job, and second, excel at BYU. I indeed hope the talent pool of LDS coaches who are willing to come to Provo is deeper than the puddle I have conceptualized. However, I have serious doubts that anyone currently out there will be able to surpass the bar set by Bronco Mendenhall.
In my humble opinion, Bronco deserves more time to transition into life with BYU as an independent program (since that probably isn’t going to change, but that is another topic for another blog post). Only time will tell and little remains certain at this point. Change could certainly come with some rather scary consequences. Beware Cougar Nation, beware!