Eye on the Y: Bronco Mendenhall lobbied for BYU to join the Big 12, believing independence was not ‘sustainable’

Mendenhall led the Cougars through their journey into independence, but always fought for the Power Five conference.

RETRANSMISSION TO CORRECT SCHOOL TO VIRGINIA - Virginia head coach Bronco Mendenhall answers a question during a news conference at the NCAA Atlantic Coast Conference college football media day in Charlotte, N.C., Wednesday, July 18, 2018. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

Some of the biggest buzz around Provo this week is the return of Bronco Mendenhall.

It is the first time the former BYU coach will be coming back to LaVell Edwards Stadium — a feat he once considered too hard to do.

Saturday’s game between Virginia and BYU aside, Mendenhall is proud of what the Cougars have been able to accomplish. Specifically, he couldn’t be happier that BYU was invited into the Big 12.

“I’m thrilled. I think it’s awesome,” Mendenhall said.

When Mendenhall left Provo, BYU’s status as a football independent was a factor.

“I don’t think it is sustainable,” Mendenhall said of independence at the time. “I was trying everything I knew how to do to advance and pioneer that part. If I were to be really blunt about it, I took it as far as I could go in relation to that setting of independence. After all that and setting all that foundation and direction, there became a point where it was guardian, custodian of that direction — where it was, I’m not sure now if I’m one supposed to be doing that here.”

Six years into his time at Virginia, Mendenhall is proud to see what Kalani Sitake has been able to accomplish at BYU, a school that will forever mean so much to Mendenhall, a fellow member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“To have the year they had through the pandemic — that was touch,” Mendenhall said. “To put a schedule together that they did and then to have success was awesome.”

Mendenhall was at the helm of BYU football when the Cougars saw Utah and TCU leave the Mountain West for the Pac-12 and Big 12 conferences, respectively. As BYU ventured into independence, Mendenhall said he began lobbying for the Cougars to get into the Big 12.

“I was probably the most aggressive in the push for the Big 12 in my time and [was] probably told to tone it down at some point,” Mendenhall said. “But I thought it would be the exact right fit, the exact right match. And, besides planting seeds, I was trying to harvest seeds at the same time. So, I’m just glad there has been some realignment and that BYU was acknowledged. ... Man, did I want that to happen when I was there. And to see it finally come to fruition, pretty cool.”

Quick hits

BYU got back into the AP Top 25 poll following Saturday’s close win at Washington State.

• BYU men’s basketball has lofty dreams, and they hope to get there with “joy in the gym.”

• Trib sports columnist Gordon Monson wrote about former BYU athlete Wyatt Warnick.

Zach Wilson walks off Sunday’s game with knee injury, possibly a PCL sprain.

Other voices

• Virginia opens as a 2.5-point underdog to BYU, from SB Nation.

• BYU unveils uniform combo for Virginia, from FanNation.

• Five things we learned in Virginia’s 48-40 win over Georgia Tech, from 247Sports.