Kragthorpe: What if BYU had picked Reynolds over Bronco?
College football • Things would have been very different in Provo, but he would have succeeded
Published: December 24, 2012 01:07PM
Updated: December 26, 2012 04:47PM

BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall’s intentions were good, using his Poinsettia Bowl postgame news conference to observe the retirement of longtime offensive assistant coach Lance Reynolds.

Of course, most accounts of the Cougars’ 23-6 victory over San Diego State last Thursday — including mine — included only brief mentions of Reynolds, amid everything else that night.

It would have been nice for the announcement to be made in the buildup to the bowl game, giving Reynolds greater appreciation. Knowing his nature, the low-key approach may have been his choice.

After more than 35 years at the school, including his playing career and a stint as a graduate assistant before becoming a full-time coach, Reynolds deserved a proper sendoff.

At least, his retirement should be distinct from other staff changes to come.

Reynolds’ departure raises an intriguing question in retrospect about his career, which will remain unanswered: What if Reynolds had become BYU’s head coach in December 2004, instead of Mendenhall?

Reynolds’ contributions to the Cougar offense since the early 1980s are easier to document. As a former offensive lineman, he was an expert in the entire offensive scheme, capable of coaching any position. He was the offensive coordinator for only one season — 2000, LaVell Edwards’ final year, when Brandon Doman eventually became the starting quarterback and delivered a memorable win over Utah.

But even without having the biggest say in the offensive meeting room, Reynolds was always a steadying influence.

His institutional knowledge will be missed, and the further end of an era will come when his son Houston completes his BYU career as the fourth Reynolds brother to start on BYU’s offensive line. Houston Reynolds, a junior, was sidelined for the season with an injury in the Cougars’ loss to Utah in September.

BYU’s assembly line of Reynolds brothers almost was interrupted after school administrators selected Mendenhall over Lance Reynolds in replacing Gary Crowton after the 2004 season. If their father had then joined Kyle Whittingham’s new staff at Utah, for example, at least some of his sons may have followed him.

During the weekend before that Monday announcement of Mendenhall’s hiring, Reynolds believed he was BYU’s choice. How would have done as BYU’s head coach? The likely answer is he would not have matched Mendenhall’s 73-29 record over eight seasons, simply because Mendenhall would not have remained as the defensive coordinator.

Mendenhall was a Crowton guy, with only two years of ties to BYU. He probably would have joined former Utah assistant Mike Sanford’s UNLV staff as defensive coordinator.

Otherwise, I have no doubt that Reynolds would have succeeded. He served BYU very well in any job he held, and the same would have been true of the head coaching position.

kkragthorpe@sltrib.com

Twitter: @tribkurt