I mentioned several times on Twitter (@drewjay) yesterday how much BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall joked during BYU Football Media Day. Relaxed and engaging, Mendenhall smiled and laughed more on Wednesday than in the five previous pre-season football media events I have covered so far (three in the Mountain West, two as an independent). As several folks mentioned after my tweets yesterday, a new contract will do that to a person. But I think there is more to it than that. Mendenhall seems to be making a conscious effort to let his guard down a little bit more, be more personable, and not so much of an introvert.
Usually, Bronco deals with the media like he has a bus to catch, or would rather be hanging ten at the North Shore. But he was jovial and accommodating on Wednesday, perhaps as much as he's ever been. Bronco's three-year extension was the news of the day in Provo and was the focus of my main Media Day report in the Tribune today. And here's Tribune columnist Kurt Kragthorpe's spot-on commentary about how Mendenhall is a tremendous value for BYU, which does things a bit differently (read: is kinda cheap) when it comes to paying its coaches. As Kragthorpe noted in his column, he asked Mendenhall if his salary is "remotely close to market value." "I like the term remote, because that is like cell phone coverage, right?" Mendenhall replied. "Sometimes you get one bar. Is that remote? Let's just keep that analogy. It is not four bars." And then he laughed at himself almost to the point where it grew a bit uncomfortable for the six or seven reporters around him who were waiting to ask another question. Here are more of Mendenhall's comments about his new agreement: On what the negotiation process was like: "Man, it was exhausting. Not only from the negotiation process, but I have been here eight years. So this thought of wanting to go forward as a college football coach, and at BYU, there is a lot that goes into that. I have higher expectations for the program than anybody in the world. From anyone that is on BYU's campus, to any fan. And so realistically looking at it, do I want to embrace those expecations here? Can Holly [his wife] and I and the kids do that? Do we want to do it? And so we looked at the decision in every possible way, but ultimately, I have come to the realization that I like it. And that's the big breakthrough. Being the head coach, there is a lot of other stuff, but I enjoy it. And I think my family, they were glad to hear me say that. Because that gave them the encouragement to say, 'OK, if you like it, let's see how we can make it work.' That's when the conversations with BYU began in earnest, that this is actually a realistic opportunity, and I want to be here." Then we worked really hard to not only verify I wanted to be here, and to have them express that they wanted me here, and needed me here, and vice versa." On whether this is most difficult offseason he's been through: "I think that there are none that even come close to comparing. I made a lot of difficult decisions with really good people in relation to what I think the program was capable of. And after those decisions, and during those decisions, I was deciding my own fate as well. I wouldn't have been able to make any changes unless I became clear as to what I wanted to do. So I think that set the framework to move the program forward. And that's to benefit the players. They are already having great success, but there is more, and that's what I want."On whether he would still be at BYU if it hadn't gone independent: "That's a great question. I guess I will speak really candidly to that. I have not chosen to stay here for the conference, or the money. If that would have been the case, two contracts ago I wouldn't have remained. BYU is completely different. My contract is completely different than any of my peers. I am here because I think I am supposed to be here, and I want to be here. I think I am a principle-driven person, and this decision was just based on that. I made hard changes. I believe the program is capable of more and I want to be the one, and I think I am supposed to be the one to lead the program into those unchartered waters. And I want to. And I like it, which I don't know if I would have been able to say before. That's been quite a unique experience over eight years to feel that internal shift. I didn't expect that to happen. I really didn't."On what ways his contract is different: "I guess you could probably consider every way. Normally, contracts are tied to revenue, meaning how much money you make and that's normally in relation to what someone comparable in wins would make, or someone comparable in independence or a conference would make. Normally it is compared against a national average. Usually it is compared to a top 25 ranking or etc., none of those things are relevant to BYU. BYU has its own existing structure that is different in every way when you are negotiating contracts. So ultimately, you have to have a real strong core value and belief that BYU is different and you want to be here. I do think that BYU did everything they possibly could to help me remain, I do believe that. But to say that is what any other school would do, that's not the case."Someone mentioned that former coach LaVell Edwards used to say he worked for blessings: "I am not complaining. I think BYU has done everything they can do to help my family and I each year. But if you wanted to get hung up, as I was early in my career, on a comparative basis, from what the world pays, or what the world acknowledges as value, you would just be mad a lot." On the oddity, to some, of bringing back Robert Anae and his thought process that went into that: "From before, I think what everybody needs to know is that I didn't ask Robert to leave. I wanted him to stay. And Robert then realized he couldn't get the production and the output from his current staff under his leadership. More out of loyalty than anything else, he said, 'I need to go.' I wanted him to stay. He's been fiercely loyal, he's very bright and we had good offenses under coach Anae, in my opinion. ... It wasn't a hard search. I never wanted him to leave in the first place. So already from what I have seen, our offense was really hard to defend this spring, and we had to make significant changes defensively to even do that against ourselves. His staff is united and there is great chemistry, but maybe more importantly they are all loyal to my way, which is his way. That part has added a level of camaraderie that is really fun; Granted, we have not been through a season yet, which is a whole different test than spring practice and media day. But he has worked really hard; he came back saying he didn't know how to go fast from an offensive perspective. He went with coach [Rich] Rodriguez and that's what they do. ... Been a challenge, knowing that we will play a quarter more of defense per game. So if you took the number of plays we played a year ago and the number of plays defenses play in the system, it is about a quarter more. But to me, to have an entire team playing the same way, I like that."