Loyal Cougars

Open Letter from a BYU Fan

Dear Fellow BYU Fans,


I am taking a turn at the now popular “Open Letter” format to get some thoughts out. I don’t have the same pull or power as Derik Stevenson or Bryan Kehl, but I want to acknowledge that I appreciate both of their letters.


Honestly, both make great points. While reading through the two letters, there were a number of facts that were presented on both sides that I found myself agreeing with, as I’m sure many other fans did. The point of my letter is to share that it is okay for the fan base to be conflicted; there is more than one solution to the current problem BYU faces.


I see a lot of the opinions shared on sites like Twitter and Cougarboard, the most passionate portion of our fan base. But what I hate to see is the division that is created; many fans believe that there is only one way for BYU to succeed and if others don’t agree then they don’t care about the program. This belief is wrong. Every fan wants to see BYU succeed.


Bronco has done a good job as a coach. I was a young fan in 2005 when he was hired. Through 2006 and 2010, my favorite memories consisted of attending BYU games in the fall with my Dad. I loved what Bronco had done with the program, I was too young to truly remember the disaster that was the Crowton years, but looking back at the changes that Bronco orchestrated is truly amazing. He stepped in, turned around a program that had a ton of talent but some serious discipline issues.


Personally, I am tied to Bronco as the coach, he is what I have always known and is the safe choice going forward; I think all fans can agree with this. Bronco has done a good job but not the job that people expect from him (and what he says he expects from himself).


Bronco has set three pillars for BYU to reach every year:


  1. Win 10 games in the season
  2. Go to a bowl game
  3. Finish the season ranked in the top 25


The last time BYU finished the season and was able to check this off was 5 years ago. If Bronco can’t meet his own expectations then yes, fans do have the right to be upset. But along with Bronco’s expectations, BYU fans have set their own, some of which take place over a 5-year period but go hand-in-hand with what Bronco has said he wants.


Here are expectations I’ve seen from fans:


  1. Win 10 games in the season
  2. Go to a bowl game
  3. Go to an NY6 game at least once every five years
  4. Finish the season ranked in the top 25
  5. Finish within the top 10 at least once every five years
  6. Beat Utah
  7. Put players into the NFL


Again, the last time Bronco was able to accomplish all five goals was 2009. He has yet to accomplish the two five-year subgoals which fans have set, but it is critical for BYU to take steps to accomplish these if they want to ever move up in the college football landscape.


While failing to hit these goals doesn’t make BYU mediocre, the four most recent seasons under independence have been disappointing. Under him, they have been able to reach 10 straight bowl games. But there are a number of fans who are worried that is all he can do, that his career has peaked, and he isn’t capable of making much more progress.


As I said before, there are a number of fans who feel that it’s time for BYU and Bronco to go their separate ways, that bringing in a new coach will make an immediate impact in the culture of the program. Fans can agree that sticking with Bronco is the safe choice, there’s a ten year window where fans know what he brings to the table, but bringing in another coach would be a huge move whether for good or bad depending on the changes being made (i.e. Gary Crowton). The fact still remains that BYU is in a desperate situation at this point to be included in a P5 conference. And this desperation is forcing BYU to play their hand to make some immediate changes in the importance of BYU football.


The program needs to win now and there are four things that can happen going forward:


  1. Keep Bronco and hope he can return to 10-win seasons putting BYU in a position to be included in the P5.
  2. Keep Bronco and continue on having 8 and 9 win seasons but be left out of P5 inclusion.
  3. Hire a new coach who is a home run hire and immediately reignites the team, similar to what Bronco was able to do in 2005.
  4. Hire a new coach which sets the program back 2-3 years as they rebuild.


This is a difficult decision, which I’m glad I don’t have to make. Hindsight is always 20/20 but the decision for setting BYU up for P5 inclusion probably should’ve happened in 2010. The initial move was going independent, but there needed to be a definite 10-year plan going forward including coaching staff and personnel decisions.


There are a number of coaching aspects with which Bronco has been successful. He’s done a great job with Thursday’s Heroes and keeping the program clean. Thursday’s Heroes is by far the best thing about BYU Football and is a great way for the team to give back to the community and those who are facing more serious challenges than football.


But, Bronco isn’t without fault. There are a number of former players who have said that they have felt alienated by BYU under Bronco’s tenure as he has tried to separate his success from Lavell’s success. This has led to issues that former players have in the way that Bronco runs the program when compared to Lavell. Under Bronco there has been an emphasis on building young men of high character who win while playing under the conditions of the Honor Code. It is a known fact that Bronco places an emphasis on players serving missions at BYU.


This all comes after a self-professed “life changing” meeting with President Eyring upon being hired as the Head Coach. During this meeting, Bronco was told that BYU needs to run a clean program that places an emphasis on the Honor Code once again.


I hate to play the “what if” game, but how would Bronco’s perspective of running the program change if he did serve a mission and play at BYU? Would he have taken this meeting so much to heart? Would he have run the program similar to Lavell?


I’m not discounting Bronco’s experience prior to BYU as it helped shape him to become the coach he is today; I just wonder what position former players would take on Bronco if he were one of their own.


Generational players have long been the life blood of BYU. They are former players who continue to support BYU after their playing days, so much so that they want their entire family to carry on the tradition that was built by Lavell. Losing these players has inhibited BYU’s progress as a program. An essential step for the program going forward will be to rebuild these bridges.


Progress can be made with Bronco at the helm, but there will need to be intervention by the governing board at BYU, most notably by Tom Holmoe. He and Bronco need to sit down and set realistic goals over the next two seasons which will determine his future at BYU going forward. There needs to be a plan with clear goals set to determine if it’s time for them to go their separate ways, or to grant another contract extension.


As a fan, all I ask is that BYU does what it can to create some excitement for the program. Whether you are Pro-Bronco or Anti-Bronco, I’m sure that we can all agree that BYU needs to make improvements going forward.


Yours in Fanhood,

Zak Hicken


  1. BYU #1 Fan

    December 5, 2014 at 1:50 pm

    You guys need to give Zak a pay raise. The dudes articles are the best!

  2. Derik Stevenson

    December 5, 2014 at 2:17 pm

    Who the H is this Zak guy? Has he ever suited up for the Y, or for any college team? It’s people like this that really piss me off! Why do you think you know what’s best for the program?

    I’m sure you think you’re helping, but let’s face it – you have no clue what you’re talking about. If you want to really know what BYU needs, follow me on Twitter and I’ll show you.

    PS – I do like the way you leave out the “c” in your name. C’s are dumb, and names are better without them.

  3. Lacy

    December 5, 2014 at 3:07 pm

    You don’t need to have played for the Y or any other college team to have an opinion on what could work for the team. Great article Zak!! Don’t listen to Derrik, he’s just jealous that no one has asked him to write for them.

    • ralphjenkins91

      December 10, 2014 at 7:53 pm

      Derik contributes regularly on LawlessRepublic.com and is a featured guest on Cougarcenter Podcast. It’s the best Cougar podcast out there.

  4. Derik Stevenson

    December 5, 2014 at 4:17 pm

    You don’t have a clue what you’re talking about Lacy, and ftr, I write for blogs all the time – BYU fans love me! The point still stands that this Zak dude has no business writing about stuff he has no clue about.

    I’ll be on 1280 next week and I challenge Zak to join me and defend his position, if he’s man enough. DM me on Twitter Zak, and I’ll set it up. Deuces ✌️.

  5. Devin Hansen

    December 5, 2014 at 4:27 pm

    Very well said from start to finish. I agree on all points. It’s good to see that there are other fans out there that love BYU, recognize what Bronco has done, both good and bad, and can present a rational analysis of what needs to happen next.

    I keep saying that I’m a fan of Bronco for cleaning up the program and because he’s shown what he can do as a defensive coach, but that he and BYU can’t keep doing the same things and expecting different results. Something has to change to get out of the good-but-not-great rut the team has been in. I’m open to a lot of possibilities as to what that change should be, and Bronco’s departure may be one of those possibilities, but any BYU fan that thinks that will be a guaranteed solution has got to take a serious reality check. It’s a risky proposal. It may work great, but it may end up sacrificing good and getting back something worse. There are no guarantees out there, so be careful what you wish for.

    Zak, your closing paragraph says it better than I’ve seen it said yet or could have said it myself, and I wholeheartedly agree:

    “As a fan, all I ask is that BYU does what it can to create some excitement for the program. Whether you are Pro-Bronco or Anti-Bronco, I’m sure that we can all agree that BYU needs to make improvements going forward.”

    Amen, brother.

    • Zak Hicken

      December 5, 2014 at 4:39 pm

      Devin, thanks for taking the time to read this. It’s good to see that I’m not the only one who is on-the-fence in this regard. I don’t think firing Bronco provides an instant solution (it can) but neither does keeping him.

      It’s hard because this time for BYU’s program is so vital for them going forward to pursue P5 inclusion and next season is the real test to see if Bronco deserves another extension.

      • ralphjenkins91

        December 10, 2014 at 8:07 pm

        I don’t think we let fear of the unknown paralyze us in moving forward. There’s always risk involved. Its like working in sales, if you have a salesman who once upon a time hit sales objectives using accounts that were given to him as he started out but now that he’s working with his own accounts is no longer able to meet those objectives for the past 5 yrs and on top of that he’s losing sales and customers to the arch rival company, how long do you continue to let him bleed the company and lose business?

        You can’t be afraid of success or be afraid of making tough decisions necessary to move your team forward. When you look at the past 5 yrs you don’t see anything to indicate that the program is moving forward. It seems pretty stagnant, with repeating patterns of mismanagement and a lack of direction with the team and when you compare us to our rivals, we appear to be losing ground.

        Bronco is 0 for his last 4 vs Utah and thank heavens we didn’t play them this year or he’d be 0 for his last 5. Overall he’s won only 3 times in 9 games. That just doesn’t cut it. That’s okay if he was the coach at Utah St but now even Utah St is taking us behind the woodshed with some regularity.

        Something changed for Bronco when Riley Nelson and Jake Heaps joined the program and he hasn’t been the same coach since. He’s lost sight of the principles he started with and the proof is in the pudding being played out on the field. In times like this the best thing to do often is a clean break and a fresh start. It will be good for Bronco and good for BYU.

  6. Bart

    December 5, 2014 at 4:45 pm

    “He and Bronco need to sit down and set realistic goals over the next two seasons which will determine his future at BYU going forward.”

    I find it interesting that there is an assumption by fans that Bronco/Holmoe DON’T have 2yr, 5yr, 10yr plans and goals already established. If BYU (and the athletic department) function like all of the other church entities then they likely have plans for the next 20 years or more. It’s just that not all of these plans/goals are made available to the general public. This can be frustrating to the fans, but make no mistake, there are definitely plans/goals in place.

    • Zak Hicken

      December 5, 2014 at 5:07 pm

      Bart, I don’t doubt there is plenty of communication between the two. But this needs to be an all-bets-on-the-table meeting where Tom lays it all on the line.

      • ralphjenkins91

        December 10, 2014 at 8:19 pm

        Tom did that before extending the latest contract extension to Bronco. This was right after the Riley Nelson disaster in 2012 had ruined what was lining up to be a special season and turned the team on it’s head causing coaches to be fired, etc.

        Bronco didn’t get his contract extension until June or July because TH wanted to make sure Bronco was committed to making some changes and getting the ship pointed in the right direction. He also required Bronco to go home and talk it over with his family and get their firm commitment to supporting him before he would give Bronco another 2 yrs (if you remember his wife was griping a lot in the media about fans, expectations, job stress, etc)

        2013 gave me some hope that things would turn around but 2014 shot that all to pieces when Bronco turned over the DC responsibilities to an inexperienced assistant who didn’t coach his players well and we watched players making basic fundamental mistakes, game after game of undisciplined play, etc and once again what was supposed to be a special season went down the tubes because of poor coaching and mismanagement.

        Bronco just doesn’t have the head for making good sound decisions as the HC and his letting Anae go after 2011 so he could promote an inexperienced Doman to the OC job was just as bad as his promoting an inexperienced Nick Howell to the DC job.

        It’s time.

  7. Dennis Johnson

    December 6, 2014 at 9:42 am

    Derik’s “you haven’t done what I’ve done or know what I know so fall in line behind me and think what I tell you to think” attitude is one I want no part of. I don’t doubt there are people who like you–and I’ll bet they are the ones who agree with your position on what BYU needs to do. But your caustic attitude is not everyone’s cup of tea.

    • ralphjenkins91

      December 10, 2014 at 8:22 pm

      He’s a former player who’s passionate about the program and has physically, emotionally and mentally given A LOT to the program. I respect his opinion even if it’s at times colorful.

  8. Roby Hunt

    December 6, 2014 at 11:00 am

    You left out one of the goals Bronco often mentions, to develop men, not NFL players. BYU is unique in its goals for its athletic programs and its athletes. My wife and daughter attended the fireside in Charlottesville last year. They are huge Bronco and BYU football fans.

    We will never be able recruit the same level of talent many powerhouse programs. As an alumnus of 1986 and having attended school at the beginning of the great years (1977) before my mission, I can relate to pining for the glory years. But also i am grateful for an institution and coach that appears to value the student and the academic reputation over money and championships. We are still the ONLY program to win the NC and never be sanctioned. It is a different landscape today and Bronco is doing a great job for what he has to work with.

    I am still hopeful for 10 win seasons, top 25 rankings and being in the national conversation. We were well on our way this year. If you don’t think we would still be in the national conversation with a healthy Taysom Hill and Jamaal Williams, you are delusional.

    By the way, not living in Utah for the past 28 years (including the last 5 on the east coast) I have attended 1-5 games a year every year. I love the fact that for the last 5 years I have been able to go to a game out here and view practically every game (stupid pac12 network) on TV. Living in PG you cannot truly appreciate what Bronco and TH have done for us.

  9. ralphjenkins91

    December 10, 2014 at 8:37 pm

    Boise St doesn’t recruit the same type of talent that the powerhouse programs do either and quite often their recruiting classes rank lower than BYU’s but they seem to do a lot more with the less that they get, go to NY6 bowl games, send players to the NFL, etc.

    I think most fans would be happy if Bronco could meet the goals he’s set for the team on a regular basis (win 10+ games, finish ranked in the top 25 and win the bowl game) and wish he’d include one more seasonal goal: beat rival Utah. Bronco has publicly insisted that we don’t prepare special game plans for specific opponents and just focus on our normal plan and try to out-execute. This has not worked well in the Holy War or in a lot of games vs ranked opponents.

    As for the mission of “developing men” we don’t need to put any extra emphasis on this. Young men are well on their way to being “developed” through their YM’s program and Scouting programs growing prior to coming to BYU, it’s “developed” while serving 2 yrs as a F/T missionary and it’s “developed” through the effort, focus and commitment required to be a top 25, 10+ win, bowl winning team each year. Developing fine young men is a natural byproduct of BYU and the LDS experience and the focus on excellence.

    We don’t need to do anything extra to accomplish that. Focus on being extraordinary at what you do and who you are and you’ll develop great young men with high moral character and the results will show that on the field.