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(Scott Sommerdorf | The Salt Lake Tribune) BYU WR Ross Apo, shows the SPIRIT on the back of his jersey that will replace his name this year, Thursday, August 8, 2013. Other players will wear HONOR, and TRADITION.
Monson: BYU’s jersey fiasco is just Bronco being Bronco

College football » Word on back of Mendenhall’s jersey should read hubris.

By Gordon Monson

| Tribune Columnist

First Published Aug 09 2013 09:49 am • Last Updated Aug 17 2013 10:23 pm

Bronco Mendenhall needs a friend, a real friend. Not some grinning fool who will bob his head up and down at every crazy and cockamamie idea the BYU football coach comes up with. He needs somebody close to him, right next to him, who will tell him when he’s thinking idiotic thoughts, somebody who won’t hold back, somebody with the strength to save Bronco from himself.

Too often, he needs that saving.

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Mendenhall is not a complete idiot, but, like a lot of us, has an inner idiot that must be squelched. He’s a good man and a good coach. Sometimes, he just loses his way and has a hard time finding the path back to … oh, I dunno … reality. Sometimes, he’s the dumbest smart coach in college football.

His quirks aren’t cute or endearing. They’re stubborn and zealous, as indicated by his latest man-of-genius idea that floated out on Thursday. It was a wing-dinger. He no longer would allow his players to wear their names on the back of their game uniforms and, instead, would force them to wear one of the following core values where the names used to be:

Spirit. Honor. Tradition.

I know, I know, when you’re done wiping tears from your eyes, read on.

Good thing nobody included Integrity between Honor and Tradition, or that acronym would be a violation of the school’s golly-gee clean-language policy. None of the players had any say in what value was assigned to his jersey. Each just got what he got.

Van Noy and Hoffman and Hill and Manumaleuna were 86ed in favor of one of the three. When the players saw what was in the works, they wanted to punch Bronco. If he had actually been able to permanently push this through, the word on the back of Mendenhall’s coaching jersey should have been: Hubris.

It took an emergency player meeting Thursday night to abort the moronic idea. It was at that meeting where Mendenhall was snapped back to the realm of normalcy by his team. Prior to that, he had said the Cougars would use Spirit, Honor, Tradition as their names for the rest of his time as head coach at BYU. Afterward, he downgraded the idea to special-occasion usage, such as once-in-a-blue-moon for homecoming.

On Thursday night, then, the players saved the coach from embarrassing himself and the school from now till Kingdom Come. But for a day, Bronco was a laughingstock, seen as a coach who is out of touch with modern times and modern athletes, not just in the minds of rivals, but by his own players, his own fan base, by anyone with half a brain.

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On Saturday, he apologized for the fiasco, likening his jersey idea to picking out the wrong anniversary gift for his wife. "Then you get that look, like, that wasn’t such a good choice," he said.

Not only were people chuckling at the prospects of announcers broadcasting a BYU game — "Spirit drops back to pass … finds Tradition over the middle … Tradition jukes left, runs right … laterals to Honor up the sideline … Honor to the 20, the 15, the 10 … the defense loses Honor … touchdown, Honor!" — they were coming up with better three-word combinations to fit Cougar football.

Can’t. Beat. Utah.

Stone. Cold. Sober.

Faith. Hope. Charity.

Bronco. Nut. Bag.

Mendenhall may have accomplished something that’s never been done before. He made rabid BYU fans sound like the rational ones. One thing’s for certain — he was on an island here.

Imagine how that whole thing would have played out with future high-level recruits. Not only that they wouldn’t be allowed to have their names on their jerseys — that’s been done elsewhere — but they would have Bronco’s foundations scrawled across that space, instead.

It’s just the latest example of a controlling Mendenhall driving a good idea — stressing solid values within his program — about five freeway exits past the best off-ramp. Nobody has a problem with BYU football emphasizing sound principles. Almost everybody has a problem with BYU football swinging those sound principles like a sledgehammer and hitting them over the head with it.

Think about a guy like Kyle Van Noy, who takes great pride in his family’s name, suddenly having that name stripped off his jersey for some heavy-handed morality play. Not only does that make opponents hate the self-righteous Cougars, it makes the Cougars hate themselves.

The immediate reaction to Bronco’s idea, which was his alone, was universally negative. BYU athletics director Tom Holmoe was surprised and bushwhacked by the move. He had no clue. He walked straight into the propeller. None of the players, when told about the idea, liked it. Former Cougars, such as linebacker Jordan Pendleton, hated it. Pendleton tweeted out: "Absolutely the dumbest thing ever."

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