Is Bronco Mendenhall thinking about leaving BYU? The Cougars' eight-year head coach admitted last winter that he could have taken a job in the Pac-12, presumably at UCLA. Last weekend, as all of Cougardom knows by now, Denver Post columnist Woody Paige wrote that Mendenhall and Cincinnati coach Butch Jones were CU's primary targets. Monday, several news outlets were reporting that Jones had been offered a five-year contract that will pay $2.5 million per year. A person on Twitter whose handle is @BYUAllBlue and claims to live in Boulder tweeted out Sunday that Mendenhall interviewed with CU officials. Some are saying Bronco will call it a career after one more year at BYU. Others are saying there's a 50 percent chance, maybe better, that Mendenhall calls it quits after the bowl game. Who knows?
After BYU defeated New Mexico State on Nov. 24 in Las Cruces, when I asked Mendenhall to describe his overall feelings about his 2012 team, he said: "It was one of the most challenging years I have had as a head coach."
His tone was clearly different than the optimistic tone he had last winter when he met with a few media members for the annual sit-down group interview in early January that follows every season. In early January of 2012, Mendenhall said BYU's status as a football independent had re-energized him. It was at that gathering that he mentioned he had turned down another job offer and had chosen to remain at BYU. The topic came up when Mendenhall was asked why he asked for and signed a three-year contract in January of 2011 instead of the five-year deal that BYU was offering. Here's his lengthy, word-for-word reply: "When I became the coach at BYU, I didn't intend, I wasn't sure I would be here seven years. I mean, seven is a long time. I am enjoying it more now than I have ever enjoyed it. I let the contract expire a year ago, in kind of a defining moment in really deciding what I thought was best for not only [his wife] Holly and I, but this program. And in going in and talking with both Tom [Holmoe] and President [Kevin] Worthen, I am not sure they thought that when I came in to visit with them with Holly that what we were going to say, because the contract renewal time, and we said that we would like to stay. And there was a visible kind of sigh of relief. But I really think they might have thought that I had had enough. In being fair to the institution, and simply in trying to be realistic, to sign a five-year agreement, five is a long time. And those that sign five-year agreements really don't honor them anyway, it doesn't seem like. They leave for someplace else or the school fires them. Not that I think either one of those would happen here. I don't want to sign an agreement and then not fulfill it. And it seemed that three years was reasonable in terms of growing the program through independence and being completely committed and devoted to this place, and having the university continue to keep evaluating if I am the one they would like to see leading the program. I don't like what I see through college football, some guys having 10- or 12-year [contracts]. I think it is just pretend, and so I have tried to manage my contract in a way that resembles just decent honest fairness. Holly and I, over the past [year], and I was really glad it wasn't as publicized, but we had a choice to make, whether to stay or not this year, and I would say the most, um, I don't know what to say about that We hadn't really pursued any other places, nor did we this year. But we had a very sincere and distinct chance to leave, and chose not to. And that, in and of itself reiterated to me the excitement I had to be here, and it was really a choice to stay, rather than a choice to leave, which was kind of, again, an invigorating process to add momentum to our existing program. And I am excited, and really motivated to continue to grow our program with the two years that I have, and after that I will re-evaluate again. But I don't ever see agreeing to 10 or 12, or something like that. So the next one, if we choose to stay, at that point, will probably be three. You know, I think it is kind of better for everyone. For those self-serving, or self-interested coaches that want as much security as possible, I just, I don't see it that way."Mendenhall was then asked whether the chance to leave came before or after the 2011 season, and he said it came after.So you had a job offer to be a head football coach somewhere else, I asked. "Yes," he said.He was then asked whether BYU will be his last coaching job: "I don't know. Not sure," he said. Then he was asked whether he could see himself coaching football somewhere else: "It is pretty intriguing because the nation at large would ask that same question, and would never consider me leaving here. And the number one question is, number one, would I? And I am talking about any interest. And then my first question to them is: why would I? And what do you have that your are looking for that would be very distinct and different? And if they are not interested in that, I am not a good fit. But there are some places that are very distinct, and I am not saying these are the places, but if you were to say Army, or Navy or Air Force, or one of the academies, or a strong academic institution, there has to be something else besides football. Otherwise, I wouldn't be interested. I think everyone understands that."