The LDS Church mentality limits BYU's coaching pool

BYU needs more former players, like Jason Beck, to choose a career in college coaching (Photo courtesy UVa media relations)

The BYU Cougars have embarked on a quest to find a new offensive coordinator. While discussion rages whether it was right or fair to get rid of Ty Detmer at this point in time, the task to replace him remains. The list of potential replacements includes names like Aaron Roderick, Jeff Grimes, Jason Beck, Paul Peterson, Fesi Sitake, Dennis Simmons, and Kevin McGiven. None of the potential candidates would be a slam dunk hire.

Part of the reason the coaching pool is shallow for BYU is the Honor Code. It is not just for students. School employees must agree to live those standards while employed. However, notwithstanding the Honor Code, BYU would probably have a deep enough coaching pool if not for another factor: the family first mentality preached by the religion that owns BYU.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints places a huge emphasis on family. That includes stressing that husbands and fathers have a responsibility to be present and involved in the home. Coaching college football doesn't make that very easy. Former BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall was supportive of the Church's position, and didn't require his assistant coaches to work late into the night. That, however, is not the case everywhere. As was just witnessed with Detmer, years of previous experience is required before coming to BYU to be prepared for what this job demands.

BYU now has a long history of success in football. As players leave the program, they have been exposed to successful football ideas. With the education requirements at BYU, it is safe to assume many of the players have the brains necessary to coach. Football is the first love for many players, not what they have chosen as a major. They have played this game since they were young, and if asked, would probably say a career in football would be more enjoyable than a career in accounting, chemistry, or engineering. Yet, very few of them enter the coaching ranks.

A college football coaching career typically follows this path:
  1. One or two years as a graduate assistant. The internship of coaching. Learn what coaching is all about while taking graduate courses. Low pay.
  2. Two or three years as a position coach at a small school. Start building your resume as a position coach at a FCS or lower level school. Work long hours and pay still isn't great.
  3. Two or three years as a position coach at medium-sized school. After proving yourself, you can move up to a larger school, but not too much bigger. Pay improves to a decent salary.
  4. Two or three years as a position coach at a large school. Assuming all goes well, you are now qualified to coach at a P5 school. Pay will be great, but pressure to perform and demands on time significantly increase.
These timetables assume the head coach doesn't get fired or move on to a bigger and better opportunity. If that happens, then finding a new job at a new school may need to happen sooner.

At this point, a coach can get comfortable as a top level position coach, or continue to climb the ladder to a coordinator position and then head coach. Getting that coordinator experience may require going back to a medium-sized school, and taking a pay cut.

A lot of BYU football players are already married and some have a child by the time their college playing days are done. The typical career path described above is rough on a family, not to mention the year round travel required by recruiting and coaching conventions to say nothing about road games during the season.

It is no wonder that BYU football players would take the less enjoyable, family-friendly jobs.

In recent history, former BYU football players Brandon Doman and Ben Cahoon had the good fortune of not following this typical, grueling career path. As soon as their professional playing days were done (NFL for Doman, CFL for Cahoon), they moved right into being a position coach at BYU (large school). After the 2012 season, Mendenhall made changes to the offensive coaching staff. Doman and Cahoon were out of jobs.

Doman could have found a good job as a quarterback coach at many different schools across the country. Cahoon probably could have gotten a decent job as a receivers coach somewhere. Both are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They took a look at all their options, in and out of football, and decided they would be better off staying in Utah and working in another profession.

Another former player, Tyler Anderson was a wide receiver for BYU (1988, 91-93). He coached high school football for awhile, but then made the jump to collegiate football. Anderson coached at the Division III level for Southern Virginia University. He soon found he preferred his previous life and returned to the high school ranks. For what it's worth, Anderson and his wife have seven children.

In college football, coaching has a greater impact than anything else on the success of a program. Recruiting and player development fall directly on the coaches. BYU became great because of LaVell Edwards. Boise State became great through great coaching. Alabama has dominated college football since 2009 because Nick Saban is the coach.

BYU can overcome the Honor Code by having more players pursue careers in coaching. While it can be hard to balance the demands of the job and the demands of a family, coaching is one of the best professions to do something else the Church strongly emphasizes--bless and enrich the lives of others.

The Editor appreciates all feedback. He can be reached via email at


  1. A full time job and some church callings take a man away from family as well. BYU's coaching hours added up is somewhat similar with work and church commitment hours in some instances. It's strange how football has all these limitations from the BOT, when money spent elsewhere is abundant. Yet BYU football is supposed to be a missionary tool with limited hours and funding issues.

    1. Those are some good thoughts. Thanks for sharing.

    2. What you ignorantly call the "LDS Church Mentality" and try to depict as a negative is where the deep and lasting strength of BYU comes from, and is exactly what the church hopes to bless the lives of others WITH. Your assigning your perception of it as the "weakness" in BYU's football program is based in your own values. In the larger picture of real life, the far greater value of families will always exceed that of football. In too many tragic instances, that fact gets realized way later in life than it should, leaving regret and unhappiness.

      It is assumed and I suspect it to be true that BYU pays less than premium salaries to it's coaching staff, and that is a problem if it is a fact. I'd like to see an upgrade there to be more competitive with top tier football. Football, however, is not life; football is a game a few play for a small part of their lives, and fewer continue in for employment. The warped perspective that says a high level educational institution should diminish it's Honor Code in order to better align itself with the popular mores of the day is abject folly. The "LDS Church Mentality" provides an ultimately reliable and successful platform for life in the fullest; it is not a hindrance or an obstacle, and there is no truth in the notion that BYU must lower it's standards to be successful.

    3. Is this directed at G Beez or the article?

      If directing at the article, I am not criticizing the LDS Church mentality. It has been a great blessing in my life. I am merely poining out how I think it makes finding qualified coaching candidates more difficult for BYU.


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