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Robert Anae resigns from BYU; other coaches still in limbo

Published January 3, 2011 2:34 pm

Shake-up • Offensive coordinator resigns as other coaches mull over their futures.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The most disappointing football season in BYU football coach Bronco Mendenhall's six-year tenure has claimed another casualty: offensive coordinator Robert Anae.

The former BYU offensive lineman announced his resignation ­­— believed to have been forced by Mendenhall — through a school spokesperson on Thursday morning, saying he wants to pursue other opportunities.

The Salt Lake Tribune has learned that Anae's future could involve Maryland. Former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach interviewed at the Atlantic Coast Conference school on Thursday to replace Ralph Friedgen, and could tap Anae for his staff there if he gets the job. Anae and Leach worked together at Texas Tech from 2000 to 2004.

Running backs coach Lance Reynolds, a 28-year veteran on the BYU staff, said the timing of Anae's announcement was a surprise to him, but the actual resignation was not. Reynolds declined further comment, saying he had tried several times to reach Anae the past 10 days, without success, and did not want to speculate.

Mendenhall, who is scheduled to return from a two-week vacation to Mexico on Sunday evening, met with his five offensive coaches on Dec. 20 and advised all five to aggressively seek other employment. The Tribune has reported, and Reynolds confirmed Thursday, that Mendenhall invited all five coaches to reapply for their positions or another position on the staff, but did not promise any coach at the time he could remain on the staff.

In a school news release, Anae expressed gratitude to BYU and Mendenhall for the "opportunity I have had to coach at my alma mater and all we were able to accomplish over the past six seasons."

A school spokesperson said Anae would not be made available for further comment.

Meanwhile, speculation resumed regarding who will be Anae's replacement.

Quarterbacks coach Brandon Doman did not return phone calls seeking comment, but is believed to be under consideration for the position. A source close to Doman said he has job options outside BYU, perhaps including Washington, where former BYU quarterback Steve Sarkisian is the head coach.

Reynolds said he has spoken to Mendenhall by telephone several times since the meeting that took place two days after BYU scored a school bowl-record 52 points in a win over UTEP in the New Mexico Bowl, but declined to discuss what those conversations entailed. Asked if he wants to stay at BYU in some capacity, Reynolds replied, "Yeah, probably."

Asked who will become BYU's new offensive coordinator, Reynolds said, "You will have to address that with the head guy [Mendenhall] when he gets back."

Reynolds and Anae had several disagreements regarding play calling during BYU games the past few seasons, and at least one involved shouting in the press box and locker room.

Reynolds said he has spoken to all of the other offensive assistants — Doman, offensive line coach Mark Weber and receivers coach Patrick Higgins — since the meeting, but is not sure what any of them are planning to do, or if any will decline to reapply for their old positions or seek Anae's old position.

Mendenhall called Doman "the best quarterbacks coach in the country" after BYU's 17-16 loss to Utah on Nov. 27 and said the former Cougar quarterback was most responsible for the rapid development this season of freshman quarterback Jake Heaps. The comments and Mendenhall's disgust over the conservative play calling at the end of the game fueled speculation that he was unhappy with Anae's performance.

Anae joined BYU's staff in 2005 after serving as Texas Tech's offensive line coach from 2000 to 2004.

He first came under fire during BYU's 1-4 start this season, a start that resulted in the midseason firing of defensive coordinator Jaime Hill. The heat intensified after the Cougars threw for just 91 yards in a 31-3 loss to TCU on Oct. 16, a loss that dropped their record to 2-5.

The Cougars finished 7-6 after beating UTEP 52-24 in the bowl game.

Anae is the first assistant to announce his departure.

"I have tremendous respect for Robert Anae," Mendenhall said in the news release. "Robert is extremely loyal and trustworthy, and a man of principle, faith and character. I appreciate all he has done for our program and for me personally the past six years. I consider him a dear friend."

Anae, who was also BYU's inside receivers coach, helped BYU tight ends earn all-Mountain West Conference honors six times, including five first-team awards. BYU tight ends Jonny Harline (2006) and Dennis Pitta (2009) earned first-team All-America honors under Anae's tutelage.

With Anae directing its offense, BYU earned top-25 statistical rankings in 28 offensive categories, including a top-10 ranking in 13 of those categories. The Cougars ranked in the top 25 in third-down efficiency each of Anae's six seasons, including a No. 1 rating in 2009 and No. 2 rankings in 2006 and 2008.

He played at BYU from 1981 to1984 as an offensive lineman and was a member of the school's 1984 national championship team.

drew@sltrib.com Twitter: @drewjay