Ben Olson is not coming back to Brigham Young.
The highly touted quarterback prospect said as much for the first time publicly during an interview with The Tribune on Monday afternoon, a half-hour before Bronco Mendenhall was introduced as the Cougars' new head coach in Provo.
"BYU is out of the picture, he said from his home in Thousand Oaks, Calif. "I was hoping deep down inside that something would work out for me there, but no, I'm not going back.
That's the bad news for the Cougars.
Worse news is that, given different circumstances, they might have had him, still.
When Olson returned from his LDS Church mission in Canada six weeks ago, he said he wanted to look at opportunities at other programs, based largely on the football chaos that stirred at BYU over the past three years. After redshirting at BYU his first season out of high school in the fall of 2002, when he was rated the No. 1 prep quarterback recruit in the nation, Olson grew concerned with the lack of direction and success under former BYU coach Gary Crowton, who suffered three straight losing seasons prior to resigning under duress on Dec. 1.
Olson visited UCLA, Arizona State and Cal while watching events unfold in Provo, waiting for positive signals that his return would be warranted.
Those positive signals never came.
"It's unfortunate, he said. "If a couple of other coaching candidates would have worked out, [my] coming back to BYU would have been more likely. Guys like Andy Reid, Norm Chow, and Lance Reynolds. I've known Lance for a long time. He would have done a great job. I've talked to him quite a bit.
Reid, currently the Philadelphia Eagles coach, and Chow, offensive coordinator at USC, were long shots to replace Crowton. Reynolds, on the other hand, a veteran Cougar assistant, wanted the job and, at one point last week, thought he had it. Instead, BYU hired Mendenhall.
"I don't know Bronco at all, Olson said. "I've never talked to him. Reynolds is a player's coach. He's a guy you can trust. He's the type of guy you want to play for.
For whom, exactly, Olson will end up playing is yet to be decided. He said he likely would make his final decision among UCLA, Cal and ASU by Saturday.