As you probably know now if you follow me on Twitter (@drewjay), BYU football coach Bronco Mendenhall sat down with reporters who cover the Cougar football program today for about 45 minutes, and answered a variety of questions. Certainly, I will have more bits and pieces from Mendenhall's interview in the coming hours and days.
But the most newsworthy revelation from Mendenhall today was that he was recently offered a head coaching job at a Division I school (after the 2011 season ended) and decided to turn it down, after consulting with his wife, Holly.
In response to a question I asked him about his job satisfaction, Mendenhall said:
"Holly and I, over the past, and I am glad it wasn't as publicized, but we had a choice to make, whether to stay or not this year, and I would say .... I don't know what to say about that .. We hadn't really pursued any other places, nor did we this year.
But we had a very sincere and distinct chance to leave, and chose not to. And that, in and of itself reiterated to me the excitement I had to be here, and it was really a choice to stay, rather than a choice to leave, which was kind of, again, an invigorating process to add momentum to our existing program. And I am excited, and really motivated to continue to grow our program with the two years that I have, and after that I will re-evaluate again.
But I don't ever see agreeing to 10 or 12 [years] or something like that. So the next [contract], if we choose to stay, at that point, will probably be three. You know, I think it is kind of better for everyone.
For those self-interested coaches that want as much security as possible, I don't see it that way."
Recovering from that surprise revelation, I asked Mendenhall, just to clarify, he the decision meant he had a job offer to be a head coach somewhere else.
"Yes," he said.
He was then asked whether BYU will be his last head coaching job.
"I don't know. I am not sure," he said.
The coach was then asked if he could see his coaching style working somewhere else.
"It is pretty intriguing because the nation at large would ask that same question, and would never consider me leaving here. And the number one question is, number one, would I? And I am talking about any interest. And then my first question to them is: why would I?
And what do you have that would be very distinct and different? And if they are not interested in that, I am not a good fit.
But there are some places that are very distinct, and I am not saying these are the places, but if you were to say Army, or Navy or Air Force, or one of the academies, or a strong academic institution, there has to be something else besides football. Otherwise, I wouldn't be interested.
I think everyone understands that."
I also asked Mendenhall why he didn't sign a five-year deal last January when one was offered, instead settling on a three-year contract.
"When I became the coach at BYU, I didn't intend, I wasn't sure I would be here seven years," he said. " I mean, seven is a long time.
I am enjoying it more now than I have ever enjoyed it. I let the contract expire a year ago, in kind of a defining moment in really deciding what I thought was best for not only Holly and I, but this program.
And in going in and talking with both Tom [Holmoe] and President [Kevin] Worthen, I am not sure they thought that when I came in to visit with them with Holly that what we were going to say, because the contract renewal time, and we said that we would like to stay.
And there was a visible kind of sigh of relief. But I really think they might have thought that I had had enough.
In being fair to the institution, and simply trying to be realistic, to sign a five-year agreement, five is a long time.
And those that sign five-year agreements really don't honor them anyway, it doesn't seem like.
They leave for someplace else or the school fires them. Not that I think anyone of those would happen here.
I don't want to sign an agreement and then not fulfill it. And it seemed that three years was reasonable in terms of growing the program through independence and being completed committed and devoted to this place, and having the university continue to keep evaluating if I am the one they would like to see leading the program.
I don't like what I see through college football, some guys having 10 or 12-year [contracts]. I think it is just pretend, and so I have tried to manage my contract in a way that resembles just decent honest fairness."
This coming weekend is BYU's big football recruiting weekend, and Mendenhall said that 18 players who have committed will be on campus. Two or three others will also be on the trip, and may receive scholarship offers while they are here.
"We were finished ... Our program is at 85 meaning you are allowed 85 scholarships. Then when a player leaves, that basically determines if we have another number," Mendenhall said. "Well, with Jake's transferring, that basically gave us another number. So we were done, and then with that number we have a chance to add a player.
So while we were finished, we still had other [recruits] that we were considering oversigning, because what oversigning does, it gives you a chance .... With existing players in your program, where they might not right now [you have a recruit in mind].
If they do [go on a mission], then rather than in the summer you try to find a recruit, you have some others in.
[Offensive lineman] Manu Mulitalo also decided to go on a mission, and that wasn't in the plans initially, so with Jake and Manu [leaving], that free'd up two spots, and so this weekend there will be 18 committed players coming in on the visit, and then there will be two or three that we are still considering for the two spots that just opened recently.
"And with our biggest need right now, we are graduating five senior defensive lineman after this [coming] year, and so in terms of now addressing what we will probably do with those exisiting [openings] we will probably target defensive linemen.
We added one already, that's Marques Johnson. So he's here now and our hope with him, and he was recruited to redshirt this year, so again when the seniors leave we will have him for two more years.
There is a chance we will take a two [years] for two junior college defensive lineman that would play this year, and be a senior next year. And we would probably take a freshman, and so again with the remaining spots, that will be most likely the direction we will head."
As the season wound down, Mendenhall talked at length about BCS access, and how that was the one carrot out there that the Big East and other BCS conference could perhaps provide that BYU doesn't have as an independent. I asked the coach if was "at peace" with the fact that BYU apparently turned down a Big East invite.
"Yeah, I am," he said. "The Big East, that was not an intriguing ...I just didn't think that was our future, quite frankly. When the Big 12 was interested, when those talks, when hints about that were [going on], I think that could be a great move for BYU, if that were to to ever happen. And in time. But until then, I really like where we are, and I like the flexibility of whom we can play.
We are having a little more success now with our scheduling. I like the exposure we get, and I think it makes sense for the institution and who we are.
So until there becomes a really, really compelling conference offer, I would rather be independent."
Couple of quick, newsy items, with the promise of more from the Mendenhall interview to come later:
* Spring ball will start on March 5, a week earlier than normal, and end on March 30. Since that's conference weekend, the spring game might be a day or two earlier than the end of spring camp. It was moved up so the players can have a week after spring ball ends to prepare for finals. Pro day is March 29.
* Mendenhall said as far as he knows, Jake Heaps is the only player leaving the program. He said he understands why there is concern about running back Joshua Quezada sticking around because Quezada's brother recently died in California. But he said there is "no indication he is planning to leave BYU."
* Mendenhall said offensive lineman Manu Mulitalo is going on a mission and that juco transfer Marques Johnson, a DT, will most likely redshirt this coming season. The Cougars will lose five defensive linemen after the 2012 season to graduation.
* Mendenhall said he is really excited about Ammon Olsen and Taysom Hill, quarterbacks who signed with SUU and Stanford, respectively, but are signing with BYU after completing church missions.
He said defensive lineman Russell Tialavea is back from his mission, but will need surgery on a broken finger and will likely miss spring ball.
* OL Braden Brown, CB Preston Hadley, OL Houston Reynolds and RB David Foote all have labrum tears in their shoulders and will miss spring ball. Hadley played the entire season with two labrum tears.
OL Braden Hansen (ankle), DT Jordan Richardson (herniated disk) and kicker Justin Sorensen (back injury) could also miss spring ball due to injuries or recent surgeries.
* Mendenhall raved about FB Iona Pritchard and said his contribution to the running game next year will be "giant" and said he is a lot like former Cougar star Manase Tonga.
* Inside linebacker Spencer Hadley will be moved to outside linebacker; Wide receiver Jordan Smith will be moved to safety; Safety Craig Bills extended on his mission and will miss spring ball. He will be back this summer and will back up Daniel Sorensen at Kat safety.
* Regarding cornerback Jordan Johnson, Mendenhall said, "We think he has a chance to be really, really good."
* Mendenhall said the 2012 schedule hasn't been released yet because all the contract are in except one. He declined to give a date for the 2012 BYU-at-Georgia Tech game. He said 2013 will be the toughest schedule BYU will play in school history. He said the 2014 schedule is almost done, and that the 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 schedules are half done.
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