Raise you hand if you have heard a Brigham Young Cougars fan say one or more of the following about head football coach Bronco Mendenhall:
“Tired of the same results each year.”
“Just not doing enough with the players we have or the players a good aggressive coach could get.”
“He refuses to admit that there’s anything wrong.”
“A little sick of losing big games regularly.”
“We’re not winning a national championship with him as coach.”
I think I see several hands raised. I know I have heard Cougar fans express these sentiments more than once.
The truth, however, is that these quotes are from Virginia Tech fans about their head coach Frank Beamer.
After hearing the complaints grow following the 2011 season about BYU football plateauing under Bronco Mendenhall, I couldn’t help wonder if Virginia Tech fans felt the same.
The Hokies have won 10 or more games every year for the last eight seasons and 11 of the last 13. Despite this impressive string of 10 win seasons, Virginia Tech is just 1-5 in six BCS bowl appearances, their only victory came in 2008 against Big East Champion Cincinnati. Since 1999, the Hokies have often been ranked in the top 10, and even top 5, but they have just one win against a top 5 ranked team and lost nearly a dozen.
Sounds like a plateau to me.
Noticing Virginia Tech’s struggles to take the next step under Beamer, I ventured to Hokie land (TechSideLine.com) and asked three questions:
1. Do Virginia Tech fans feel Virginia Tech has plateaued under Beamer?
2. Do Virginia Tech fans want Beamer to be replaced?
3. If you are happy with Beamer as coach and don’t want him to leave, why?
My inquiries were well received by Virginia Tech fans. They were cordial and provided great feedback. (You can read the entire thread here.) There were over 80 total responses to my thread. I tallied the responses and found these results:
Question 1: 12-8 in support of the idea that Virginia Tech football had plateaued, with three “maybe/undecided” responses.
Question 2: 22-1 in opposition to replacing Coach Beamer.
Translation: Although a majority thought Virginia Tech football would not get any better with their current coach, it was almost unanimous to keep him.
Part of the reason for the strong support to keep Beamer, I learned, was that he is the LaVell Edwards of Hokie football. However, there were several explanations for keeping him (question three) that also echo what many in the BYU fan base have said to support and defend Mendenhall.
“He has a great philosophy regarding the character of the kids he recruits and brings out the best in each of them. He has established a 'family' concept in our program.”
“Everything that he stands for.”
“He’s a class act, has a program with impeccable integrity.”
“Does things the right way (no NCAA issues, doesn’t berate or mistreat players, and disciplines players appropriately).”
“VT has a very tough road to play for a national title.”
“Most around here have some EXTREMELY unrealistic expectations for Virginia Tech football. … The reality is, based on [coach’s salary, average revenues, stadium size, and attendance], Beamer has VT playing well above its head by having us annually lurk around the top 5, 10, or 15.”
“Do you have any real idea how hard winning the BCS championship is?? You have to have that perfect mix of talent, experience, luck, team chemistry, schedule, lack of injuries, composure, team leadership, etc. in order to have a chance!”
“That plateau is pretty amazing considering what he has to work with.”
“You could be a program like say Vanderbilt and hope for a winning season every now and then.”
“If you are not sure you can make an improvement, and improvement from our current perches is extremely difficult, then don’t screw up a good thing.”
“It is going to be tough to follow up Frank Beamer with another guy who can win every year.”
“Every football fan in America, except for a few of ours, would love to plateau at 10+ wins per season.”
“Priorities placed in character first always wins.”
The comment that best describes my feelings on Bronco Mendenhall and the state of BYU football comes from BayouGobbler: “I’m not saying we should let him continue to coach until he dies but regardless of whether we have plateaued it is way to early in his career to push him out the door.”
Mendenhall has, by no means, earned the right to “quit on his own terms” like LaVell Edwards did, and like many Virginia Tech fans feel Beamer has. However, BYU’s 66 wins, five 10-win seasons, five bowl victories, and nine national rankings in the two major polls during Mendenhall’s seven seasons should give him a certain measure of job security. That security only strengthens considering Mendenhall rescued BYU from three consecutive losing seasons and some of the biggest honor code scandals the school has ever seen.
If you are frustrated with Bronco Mendenhall, take some comfort in knowing your are not alone. Hokie fans feel your pain. Maybe BYU football doesn't significantly improve during the next decade, but don’t let this deprive you of enjoying the high quality football that should come.
After all, it could be worse, much worse.
The Editor appreciates all feedback. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org