Should BYU Cougars Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall Be the Mountain West Conference Coach of the Year?

Five games ago, the Brigham Young Cougars were 1-4. They are now 5-5, with the one additional loss coming on the road to number 4 TCU. The very, very clear turning point in the season came after Bronco Mendenhall fired defensive coordinator Jaime Hill.

Mendenhall took over as defensive coordinator for a unit that was allowing 259.2 yards rushing and 28.8 points per game. In the last five games, the BYU defense has allowed 329 total rushing yards (65.8 yards per game) and 17.8 points per game (10 or less the last two games). These impressive stats have come while key players have been injured: Romney Fuga, starting nose tackle; Jordan Pendleton, the playmaking outside linebacker; and Steve Thomas, starting free safety.

The offense took a little longer to come around, but the high flying pass game is hitting on all cylinders now. The Cougars scored a total of 103 points in the first seven games of the year. They have scored 104 the last two games. True freshman quarterback Jake Heaps’ stat line the last two weeks is: 34-51 (66.7%), 536 yards, 6 TD, 0 Int., Pass efficiency rating: 193.8.

If BYU wins their next two games, the Cougars will end the year 6-2 in the MWC, second place in the conference, and head-to-head victories over any team tied with them. Such a strong finish that clearly started when Mendenhall took over the defense begs the question: Should Bronco Mendenhall be the MWC coach of the year?

Seriously, who else are you going to vote for?

Gary Patterson, TCU—Strong candidate for directing TCU to a second consecutive perfect regular season, but his biggest selling point is also his biggest negative. We have already seen him do this. Bronco didn’t get 2007 MWC coach of the year honors even though he led BYU to its second consecutive perfect conference record. The honors went to Troy Calhoun, coach of the second place Air Force Falcons. TCU has a weaker resume this year than last, as well. There is no ACC Division champion, and two MWC teams are not ranked. Oregon State and Baylor are coming apart at the seams, and Utah is on the verge of falling out of the polls.

Brady Hoke, San Diego State—The Aztecs are certainly the surprise of the conference this year. From 4-8 last year, they can finish 9-3, if they beat Utah. That would give Hoke a very strong case for Coach of the Year honors, as well. If they lose to Utah, San Diego State is sitting at 8-4, one game better than BYU’s 7-5. However, Hoke was out coached by Bronco back in October. The turning point for BYU came at the hands of San Diego State.

Kyle Whittingham, Utah—The Utes would finish 9-3, at best, if BYU wins its last two games. Utah would have completed one of the most epic falls in modern sports history. They were number five in the BCS standings with four games to go. There is no way you can reward a coach who’s team had such a monumental collapse.

No coach after that deserves mention.

The only reason that you might not vote for Bronco Mendenhall is if you feel that he is directly responsible for BYU's slow start. You might say that he made poor decisions to start the year, and that he took a step back and exerted less influence when having such a young team required a step forward. This is a fair argument to make. He did let key position battles go on longer than was healthy for the team, particularly quarterback, middle linebacker, and tight end. Mendenhall was delegating more to assistant and position coaches leading the players to feel less of his presence and to understand less what his expectations are. If that is the way you feel, then the question becomes, how much restitution did Bronco make for his earlier poor judgment with these final seven games? Is this 6-1 finish enough? Does the fact that those ugly early season losses were mostly non-conference game matter when voting for the conference coach of the year?

In the end, most voters might not have such a critical eye. You have to be pretty close to the program to realize that Bronco Mendenhall's coaching may be to blame for the slow start. Voters could look at the Riley Nelson injury early in the third game of the season, and say indecision on the QB race was actually helpful (if Nelson was getting all the reps in fall practice and the first two games, then Heaps would have been even less prepared). In any case, there are still two games to go, and BYU could lose. If BYU wins them both, however, Bronco Mendenhall should be near the top when the votes are counted, regardless of each voters unique view of the situation.


  1. I, too, had been thinking about Bronco's chance at MWC Coach of the Year, and I think he deserves it, even if BYU goes 1-1 in the last two games. The way Bronco has turned this season around, and what he has done with the team speaks volumes about the kind of coach, and the kind of person, that he is. The only other possibility, in my opinion, is Brady Hoke from SDSU.

  2. Personally, I think Hoke is going to win it. Just like Bronco was denied the repeat in 2007, Patterson will be denied because we have all seen this trick before. Hoke will probably double his win total from a year ago.

    Let's not forget that this is the MWC, where everyone is upset with BYU for going independent. If a viable option exists, many voters will choose the non-BYU option. Also, the whole replay controversy about the BYU-SDSU game, Hoke could get some sympathy votes for that.

  3. So you edit my post because you don't like what I said?

    That's so BYU isn't it?

    If you don't like what they have to say, just silence them. I like it.

    Thanks for proving the stereotype correct!

  4. If you are going to post a comment, please keep the language clean, or I will delete it.

    You are more than welcome to disagree with me, but vulgar and profane language is not tolerated.

    To respond to a comment I had to delete that disagreed:

    I agree that Bronco should shoulder the blame for what happened to start the year. But, I can't buy any argument that these decisions were so cut and dry that any other coach would have done the exact opposite.

    Firing Jaime Hill--Despite the blowout losses to FSU and TCU, the defense improved in 2009 from 2008. No one thought Hill should have been replaced at the end of last season. I think firing him was the right decision, at the time it happened.

    Remember, it was hard to see that coaching was the problem with the defense during the first few losses. Turnovers and offensive struggles were blamed for the AFA loss. Poor tackling and more offensive problems were blamed for FSU.

    Nevada was bad, but the normal thing to do is give someone one last chance, which was Utah State.

    Don't forget that Barry Lamb suddenly retired weeks before the season started. That didn't help matters on the defensive side. I am not sure how much that makes a difference, but it should not be completely ignored.

    2 QB System--Choosing to start a true freshman is not an easy decision to make. When you do it, you essentially sentance yourself to a sub 3,000 yard and sub 20 TD passing season. It is considered a good year if the QB throws more TDs than Ints. Just until 2 weeks ago a significant contingent was crying for Jake to take a seat so we can see what Lark and Munns can do.

    While I don't want Riley to start the next two years, from what I saw, he showed he could have been serviceable this year if Heaps had redshirted.

    I also find it hard to fault Bronco for trying/wanting to delegate more to his assistants. Being a hands on head coach is very, very demanding. I think every coach in America would love to be able to use the LaVell approach. When he saw it wasn't working Bronco asserted himself. You can't say that about LaVell, a former defensive coach himself.

    The bottom line though, many people thought an 8-4 year could be considrered a successful year. If BYU wins the next two games, they finish 7-5, one game off the mark. While none of us expected or wanted things to start so ugly, it didn't have a huge effect on the end product.

    As the article reads, I am posing the question and using historical voting patterns and the resumes of other candidates to help everyone think about the question.

    Just as I said in my previous comment, I don't expect it to happen, but he has a better chance this year than the last two.


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