Brigham Young Cougars head coach Bronco Mendenhall confirmed last Monday that rumors of preliminary talks about extending his contract with BYU were true. Mendenhall has one year left on a three-year deal he signed before the 2011 season.
It is the practice in college football for a school to extend the contract of the head coach when just one year remains. The belief is that a coach is at a disadvantage when it comes to recruiting if he can't show recruits a commitment from the school to keep him there at least through that kid's freshman season.
The story goes that BYU wanted to lock up Mendenhall for more than three years back in 2011, but Mendenhall was reluctant to commit for such a long period of time. His reasoning was that he wanted to complete the term of any contract that he signed. Now that he has expressed interest in staying at BYU longer than just the 2013 season, what kind of a deal should BYU Athletic Director Tom Holmoe present?
To help Holmoe get an idea of how Cougar fans felt, BLUE COUGAR FOOTBALL asked site visitors how long they thought BYU should extend Mendenhall's contract. The results were rather surprising. Over 60 percent of respondents said BYU should extend Mendenhall's contract for what would be equivalent to a lifetime deal.
The exact percent was 62, and the exact response was to extend the contract for four or more years. That kind of an extension would lock up Mendenhall through the 2017 season, minimum. A three-year extension through the 2016 season was the next most popular response with 30 percent of respondents selecting this answer. Just six percent voted for a one-year extension (2014), and the remaining two percent of voters selected a two-year extension (2015).
Mendenhall has also said on many occasions, that he never expected to be head coach at BYU this long, and he won't stay an extremely long time--like LaVell Edwards. If BYU were to extend Mendenhall's contract for four years, or longer, it is basically giving him the luxury to pick the date that he will retire from this post.
Personally, I don't look at the extension the same way as Mendenhall or BYU.
One, Mendenhall has shown that he will consider other opportunities, even while he is under contract. After 2011, he interviewed for a job, but later requested his name be withdraw as a candidate after being offered the job. Just a few months ago, it was reported that he was a top candidate for the Colorado job, although Mendenhall denies having ever interviewed in Boulder. Maybe Mendenhall will feel guilty about retiring from coaching if he still has time on a contract that he signed, but he appears to be willing to take another job--the right job.
I see nothing wrong with that. That is part of the business. Mendenhall wouldn't have been dishonest with BYU, and he wouldn't continue to collect a paycheck from the Y.
Two, BYU can still make a coaching change before the end of the contract, without being legally bound to continue paying Mendenhall. In 2004, BYU decision makers wanted Gary Crowton out as the head coach. After meetings behind closed doors, Crowton resigned. BYU didn't have to fire him. It seems reasonable that Holmoe, or whoever is the athletic director, would be able to handle a similar situation in like manner with Mendenhall, should it arise.
As far as either side feeling obligated to honor a previous agreement, I don't think the duration of the contract extension is a serious matter. Philosophically, I feel different.
Last September, BLUE COUGAR FOOTBALL expressed an opinion that basically said BYU should make Mendenhall earn future years as head coach at BYU. In other words, his contract should not be extended. Mendenhall should do what Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco did this past season--go out and show how much he is worth.
If BYU feels differently and wants to extend the contract, then it shouldn't be for more than two years, maximum. BYU's television contract with ESPN is the reason to not extend the contract beyond two years.
As noted previously, a two-year extension would last through the 2015 season. That would be year five in the eight-year contract BYU has with ESPN. The ESPN deal is the lifeblood of BYU independence. BYU cannot afford to wait longer than 2015 to reevaluate all aspects of the football program and independence in order to position itself to negotiate with ESPN for another contract, or an extension of its own.
An extension for Mendenhall through 2015 would force BYU to question whether Mendenhall is still the right man to lead BYU as an independent. It would also force Mendenhall to ask himself if he is still the right man, and if he is willing to stay long enough to help BYU successfully secure a new contract or an extension with ESPN.
BYU cannot turn the head coaching job over to a new guy with one or two years left on the ESPN deal and say, "No pressure, but you MUST win immediately and impressively. We need that ESPN contract." That is a recipe for disaster. If a move is made in 2015, that gives the new guy three years to get everything together and wow ESPN.
Honestly, I am not sure that 2014 wouldn't be a better time for the school to do this comprehensive reevaluation.
Anyways, thank you to everyone who participated in the poll. Don't forget to vote in this week's poll: "Who will be BYU's second leading receiver in 2013?"
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