Kragthorpe: BYU beware; New Mexico Bowl win comes with a curse
This is BYU's football future: A convincing win over Texas-El Paso in the fifth annual New Mexico Bowl, then a downturn that includes a terrible loss to Utah in the coming years and no winning season anytime soon, eventually resulting in the coach's resigning.
There's one way Bronco Mendenhall and the Cougars can avoid this fate. They can lose to UTEP, enabling them to move forward, as Nevada and Fresno State have done after finishing second in Albuquerque.
The four champions of the New Mexico Bowl, meanwhile, have never been the same. The only explanation is that the unique trophy a handcrafted American Indian clay pot, painted with the iconic Zia symbol and images of a football player, deer, mountain lion, buffalo and eagle is cursed. A victory in the Land of Enchantment comes with a spell that apparently lasts forever, judging by what's happened to San Jose State, New Mexico, Colorado State and Wyoming.
It may have seemed like a good idea at the time, but a New Mexico Bowl victory is the worst thing that ever happened to those programs. They teamed for an 8-41 record this season, while losing to Utah by a total of 201-29 (average: 50-7). Since each team won in Albuquerque, they've gone a combined 29-92.
So when Mendenhall describes a victory Saturday as a springboard for his program, a nice launch into independence with so many talented, young players returning, do not listen to him. The Cougars will be doomed, even if they're just as unsuspecting as all those other winners who mistakenly believed this was the start of something good.
"Our kids and coaches worked extremely hard for this. Nine wins is a big deal for us." Dick Tomey, San Jose State coach, 2006.
Sure is. After concluding that 9-4 year with a 20-12 defeat of New Mexico, SJSU dipped to 5-7, 6-6 and 2-10, leading to Tomey's retirement. The Spartans went 1-12 under their new coach, barely beating Southern Utah.
"We won a bowl game on ESPN and it gives us the confidence to come back next year and strive for better things." Paul Baker, New Mexico running back, 2007.
Nice try. The Lobos performed much better as New Mexico Bowl runners-up than champions. Their second appearance in the hometown bowl resulted in a 23-0 trouncing of Nevada. The Wolf Pack have recovered nicely from their first scoreless effort in 329 games, going 11-1 this season with an epic upset of Boise State.
The Lobos are 6-30 since then, with coach Rocky Long resigning after the following season and Mike Locksley posting a 2-22 record in two years.
"To have a great day like that and for us to just get a win sets the bar higher for next year." Gartrell Johnson, Colorado State running back, 2008.
That's higher, as in out of reach. The Rams backed up their 40-35 victory over Fresno State with three wins to start coach Steve Fairchild's second season, but they're 3-18 since then with two league victories in two years.
"I think it makes a statement about the direction in which this program is going." Dave Christensen, Wyoming coach, 2009.
That would be down. The Cowboys finished 7-6 in Christensen's first season after a 35-28 double-overtime defeat of Fresno State. Wyoming went 3-9 this year, beating only CSU in conference play.
Fresno State, the two-time loser, enjoyed another decent season in 2010 and will play in the Humanitarian Bowl in Boise.
So while Saturday's losers will have a 6-7 record, they should be very happy to have avoided winning the last game and eagerly looking ahead. The winners should start worrying immediately.
Past four New Mexico Bowl champs didn't fare well the next year or vs. Utes in 2010:
Year Team Next yr. Vs. Utah 2010
2006 San Jose State 5-7 L, 56-3
2007 New Mexico 4-8 L, 56-14
2008 Colorado State 3-9 L, 59-6
2009 Wyoming 3-9 L, 30-6
Totals 15-33 L, 201-29