This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Provo • Thanks mostly to an ugly and embarrassing brawl at the conclusion of the Miami Beach Bowl that was at least escalated by his players, if not started by them, it has been a tumultuous and trying offseason for 10-year BYU football coach Bronco Mendenhall.
Throw in assault with a deadly weapon charges against a prominent recruit in Texas, multiple players missing spring camp due to academic deficiencies, and a recent tweet by assistant coach Mark Atuaia that some perceived as a threat directed at LDS Church dissidents, and the headlines since Dec. 22 haven't always been positive for image-conscious BYU.
The negative publicity, combined with three straight 8-5 seasons that a demanding fan base is clearly becoming more and more restless about, might be enough to get a coach to think about bolting. That's especially true of one who famously noted when he succeeded his boss, Gary Crowton, after the 2004 season that he wasn't going to be a long-term coach like LaVell Edwards was.
But in a one-on-one interview with The Salt Lake Tribune on Friday, Mendenhall, 49, said he is still motivated, challenged and fulfilled by his job and plans on attacking it vigorously for at least one more season and possibly a lot longer.
Mendenhall acknowledged inviting speculation about his future at BYU with those long-ago comments. But he said Friday that he has evaluated his status at the end of every season the past three or four years, and will continue to do so.
"As long as I feel like I am supposed to be the head coach at BYU, then I will stay," said Mendenhall, who signed a contract extension in 2013 that will take him through the 2016 season.
"Going into the previous three seasons, I have gone with that exact same mindset," he added. "And I will do the same after this next season ends. That's the safest, and fairest, and most truthful, route for anybody."
Mendenhall's record at BYU is 90-39 and he is 6-4 in bowl games. In February, athletic director Tom Holmoe spoke positively of Mendenhall's performance through 10 seasons.
"It is a very difficult job that I feel Bronco has stood up to very well," Holmoe said, while also acknowledging the changing landscape in college football has made the job even tougher than when he hired Mendenhall in December of 2004 after three straight losing seasons under Crowton.
Mendenhall said he is still the right guy to lead BYU into what he says will be a "new, different era for us" as the schedule intensifies in the school's fifth-season of independence. The Cougars open with Nebraska, Boise State, UCLA and Michigan in September.
Tougher admission and academic standards, higher scrutiny of the school's moral standards and finding players who can handle both and still have Division I football talent threaten to make the job even more difficult, Mendenhall acknowledged.
"Expectations [from fans] are the highest ever for our program, and I promoted them [by saying the program could win a national championship] so I like that," he said. "Couple that with the highest standards, ever, at our school, and the high level of competition we have chosen to play and the highest level of exposure, all at once. So if I were defining this new era, that's what it is. … The greatest opportunities are also the greatest challenges."
Mendenhall said he's had other head coaching job offers the last 3-4 years, but did not elaborate.
He agreed with a statement made by Holmoe in February that football independence is "not sustainable" in the long term due to revenue disparity with Power Five conference teams.
As for the brawl, the coach is still not saying which players, or how many, will be suspended for the Sept. 5 opener at Nebraska.
He said in March that he won't comment on the charges facing Texas prep running back Charles West, who signed with BYU on Feb. 4, until the legal process has taken its course.
Regarding Atuaia's tweet that those opposed to LDS Church leadership should "go see your stake president and then find me and oppose those beloved men in front me and witness how I sin," Mendenhall said the matter has been dealt with internally.
"But there will be no reprimands, no discipline, no repercussions," he said. "There was just a teachable moment, and that's what I have done."
BYU football developments
• Coach Bronco Mendenhall said he looks at his future at BYU on a year-to-year basis and doesn't promise recruits or anyone else that he will stay longer than a year at a time.
• Mendenhall agreed with a statement made by AD Tom Holmoe in February that football independence is "not sustainable" in the long term due to revenue disparity with P5 conference teams.
• Mendenhall said running backs coach Mark Atuaia's controversial tweet about LDS dissent at General Conference has been handled internally and no discipline is forthcoming.